Today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee amid allegations of anti-conservative bias and privacy violations on the platform. Chairman Bob Goodlatte began the investigatory hearing on “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices” by making several remarks.
Chairman Goodlatte acknowledged that Google is the leading email service provider by stating:
In the United States, Google operates the preeminent Internet search engine, the leading email service provider, and the Android operating system, which runs most of the smart phones in the U.S. When a consumer performs an Internet search, sends an email or uses his or her smart phone, Google collects information on that person. In fact almost every minute of every day, the Android operating system sends information about the exact location, temperature, barometric pressure, and speed of movement of every phone that runs on the Android operating system. With Americans carrying their smart phones all day, every day, Google is able to collect an amount of information about its users that would even make the NSA blush. Of course, when users click through the terms of service for these services, they do consent to such collection. But I think it is fair to say that most Americans have no idea the sheer volume of detailed information that is collected. Today, I hope to get answers on the exten[t] of data collection and use by Google.
In contrast, Google CEO Sundar Pichai began his opening statment by detailing a bit of his history and background and stressed Google’s dedication, by stating:
It’s no coincidence that a company dedicated to the free flow of information was founded right here in the US. As an American company, we cherish the values and freedoms that have allowed us to grow and serve so many users. I am proud to say we do work, and we will continue to work, with the government to keep our country safe and secure.
In regarding to diversifying Google searches and preventing political biases on the Google interface, Pichai explained that:
Users also look to us to provide accurate, trusted information. We work hard to ensure the integrity of our products, and we’ve put a number of checks and balances in place to ensure they continue to live up to our standards. I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions—and we have no shortage of them among our own employees. Some of our Googlers are former servicemen and women who have risked much in defense of our country. Some are civil libertarians who fiercely defend freedom of expression. Some are parents who worry about the role technology plays in our households. Some—like me—are immigrants to this country, profoundly grateful for the freedoms and opportunities it offers.
RNLA Vice President for Communications Harmeet Dhillon points out, however, that Google struggles to live up to its lofty principles. Ms. Dhillon is representing a former Google employee, James Damore, in a lawsuit against Google for discrimination against conservatives.
As Chairman Goodlatte clearly explained in his opening statement, it is almost impossible to avoid Google and their interfaces; therefore, any kind of political bias is problematic. Google is a definition of the American dream: it was started by two individuals in a garage and is now one of the most influential, powerful, and successful companies in the world. Therefore, Google must be an example to not only their fellow tech companies, but to companies around the world generally. Promoting transparency, accountability, and equality among users will ensure and prevent any potential for political bias, by the users, Google, and other tech companies.