Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive is preparing to testify before the U.S. Congress next week in what is expected to be a wide-ranging hearing with U.S. Senators.
According to a report in the Financial Times, with Google facing backlash from the news that it’s working on a search engine for China that will be censored and allegations it suppressed certain search results for political reasons, Google officials told the Financial Times that the questioning is expected to be tough. One aide to a senior member of the committee told the FT that the hearing is going to be a “free for all,” with all members of the committee getting a chance to ask Google’s CEO anything they are angry about. “This will be something similar to the Facebook hearings,” the person said, referring to the two Congressional appearances by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, after the revelations surrounding Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In that case, the now defunct political consulting company accessed data on more than 85 million Facebook users without their consent.
Pichai has also been viewed hostility by lawmakers in the wake of data breaches, misinformation campaigns and concerns about working with China. It also comes as Congress is looking at whether or not to put on the books America’s first national data privacy laws. In September Pichai declined to testify with Twitter’s CEO and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg during a Senate Intelligence committee. A empty chair was set up to show his absence. Following the hearing, Pichai met with Republican leaders to discuss the concerns and agreed to the upcoming hearing slated for Wednesday (December 5). In a statement issued ahead of the session, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, said: “Recent reports suggest Google might not be wielding its vast power impartially. Its business practices may have been affected by political bias. Additionally, reports claim the company is compromising its core principles by complying with repressive censorship mandates from China,” reported the FT. The right has been up in arms over what they think is the leftist slant of Silicon Valley leaders. That has resulted in the issue being top of mind for the Republican-led committee’s agenda for the hearing, noted the paper.