U.S. Congress grilled Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai on Tuesday (Dec. 11) about how the company approaches privacy and whether it has political bias, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Pichai appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, and right away was questioned about Google’s data collection. Republican Bob Goodlatte, chair of the committee, asked how much personal information Google gets from Android software on mobile.
Pichai said users can opt in to data tracking for apps that measure fitness and steps. However, when asked about whether users understand the company’s terms of service, he didn’t directly answer.
"Beyond the terms of service we actually offer, we remind users to do a privacy checkup," Pichai said. "And we make it very obvious."
Republican Lamar Smith asked if Google’s search engine was skewed against conservatives. Pichai said it was impossible for Google employees to skew results.
"There are always studies [that] can show one set of data and arrive at a conclusion," Pichai said. "But we have looked at results on our top news category. We find that we have a wide variety of sources."
Relations between lawmakers and tech companies have been tense lately, especially since Pichai skipped a September hearing.
"It was necessary to convene this hearing because of the widening gap of distrust between technology companies and the American people," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He cited rising tensions in China, antitrust issues and anti-conservative bias as concerns.
The lawmakers were especially concerned about Google’s supposed foray into China, and its stringent censorship laws.
"Right now, we have no plans to launch in China," Pichai said. "We don’t have a search product there. Our core mission is to provide information to users. Getting access to information is an important human right."
Google hasn’t provided its search engine in China since 2008, after the Chinese government demanded that the tech giant censor results. Pichai released a statement on Monday (Dec. 10) about American values and how important they are to his company.
"As an American company, we cherish the values and freedoms that have allowed us to grow and serve so many users," Pichai said. "I am proud to say we do work, and we will continue to work, with the government to keep our country safe and secure."