Google Chief Sundar Pichai Faces Congressional Hot Seat This Week

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In a year of belligerent hearings targeting Facebook and Twitter, Google is now set to come in for its moment of hostile political scrutiny

Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, is to testify before Congress for the first time this week, following in the footsteps of other internet firms including Facebook and Twitter.

He faces questioning on Wednesday before the House judiciary committee, in an event observers have suggested is likely to be taken as an occasion to put Google on the hot seat.

The testimony is to be followed on Thursday by a meeting at the White House that Pichai is scheduled to attend along with other technology chiefs.

Wednesday’s grilling comes as US politicians are increasingly leaning in favour of enacting the US’ first federal data privacy law, and in an atmosphere of hostility against Google by US President Trump.

Credit: US SenateHostile climate

Google has made efforts to avoid being seen in the same light as other internet media companies, and in September was represented by an empty chair after Pichai refused to testify before the Senate intelligence committee along with Jack Dorsey, chief executive of, Twitter, and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook.

Pichai reportedly agreed in principle to this week’s appearance in a private meeting with politicians that followed the September hearing.

In a statement issued ahead of this week’s hearing, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, accused Google of political bias and indicated that Google’s reported work on a censorship-enabled search engine for the Chinese market would also be a topic of discussion.

“Recent reports suggest Google might not be wielding its vast power impartially,” McCarthy stated.  “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.”

An aide to a senior member of the committee told the Financial Times that the meeting would be a “free for all” in which the tone would be similarly hostile to that of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony earlier this year.

Google+ breach

Zuckerberg was called before both houses of Congress following revelations about the way in which Cambridge Analytica allegedly used data on 87 million Facebook users for campaign purposes in the 2016 US presidential elections.

In October Google admitted it had discovered a data breach of its own involving the Google+ social network earlier this year, and had decided not to disclose it, reportedly because it would lead to Pichai having to testify before Congress and would attract the attention of regulators.

That incident is likely to come up this week, as are any other issues that lawmakers care to bring up.

Thursday’s meeting at the White House is likely to be less heated, and is set to cover issues such as artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and quantum computing.


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