Google's Prototype Chinese Search Engine Links Searches To Phone Numbers

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Testifies Before House Judiciary CommitteeGetty Images

On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai endured nearly three and a half hours of questioning in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the company he leads, including its market position, complaints of political bias, and concerns over it launching a censored search product in China.

Although other tech CEOs have struggled under the pressure of Congressional questioning, Pichai remained relatively cool throughout and stuck to more repetitive answers to lines of questioning that came from both parties.

Three big issues that came up during the hearing were allegations that Google search results are biased against conservative viewpoints and news sources; concerns over how Android devices collect data; and pointed questions about whether Google was planning a censored search product for China. Other issues that arose included concerns over Google’s market dominance, forced arbitration of employee claims, and how content is filtered on Google’s platform.

“The technology behind online services like social media and Internet search engines can also be used to suppress particular viewpoints and manipulate public opinion,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said in a statement before the hearing. “Americans put their trust in big tech companies to honor freedom of speech and champion open dialogue, and it is Congress’ responsibility to the American people to make sure these tech giants are transparent and accountable in their practices.”

Allegations that Google’s search results are biased against conservatives was the theme of a number of questioners - indeed, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) spent his five minutes making allegations without actually asking any questions of Pichai at all. Democrats mostly dismissed these allegations, though Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) complained that when he searched his own name previously, the results tended to be from conservative news organizations.

In response to these allegations, Pichai mostly stuck to variations on the line that was included in his written testimony, “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way.” He re-iterated that Google’s search results can’t be manipulated by one person and that it’s designed to be robust and responsive to user feedback.

A number of members of both parties had a lot of pointed questions about the way that Android devices and Google products collect data. For example, Chairman Goodlatte’s opening statement noted that Android products collect a lot of data and that while many consumers may consent to this data collection via terms of service, most of them “have no idea” what’s being collected.

On numerous occasions during this line of questioning, Pichai stated that Google was working to make it easier for consumers to understand its privacy policies. That includes simplifying its privacy dashboards and sending reminders to users to check up on their privacy settings. Still, he admitted that the company still as a lot of work to do in that area.

The other line of questioning that both parties agreed on involved expressing concern over Google’s Project Dragonfly, which Pichai described to the Committee as an exploratory project to see how a search product might operate in China. Pichai admitted that over 100 employees had worked on the project over the course of a number of months, but denied that Google had any plans to expand a search product to China.

That said, the prospect of a potential Chinese expansion did seem to be on his mind. On several occasions, Pichai noted part of Google’s mission is to “explore possibilities to give users access to information,” but he tried to ensure lawmakers that the company would engage with U.S. policymakers before taking any steps to move into China.

A number of references were made also during the hearing to Google’s market dominance in search, including wielding of a number claiming that 90% of searchers are made on Google’s platform. These stats from eMarketer highlight how Google compares to its search rivals.

US search ad revenues

US search ad revenueseMarketer

Pichai seemed to bristle at this particular claim, stating that the stat doesn’t adequately reflect how people search. He noted, for example, that studies of searches for products to shop for don’t include Amazon, which he said was many consumers’ go-to first stop for shopping. 

You can watch the entire hearing on the video below, or you can catch up with the archive of our live blogging of the hearings, which begin below the video.

Live Updates:

1:37pm - It's been about 3 and a half hours and the hearing is now over. The members of the committee will have 5 days to submit more questions for Pichai to respond to in writing later. Google's stock at the end of this ordeal? 1057.87 - about 6.73 lower than when it started. But still higher than yesterday's close.

1:33 pm - Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) asks about what Google is doing to educate its users about a privacy policy that she says is "20 pages long" and "changes multiple times per year." Pichai said that it's working to make its dashboards clearer and also make it possible to reduce the number of controls. "We're trying to match with user expectations" - for example, if users search for a restaurant, they want local restaurants. Pichai says that he agrees there's more work to be done and that it still needs to be more simplified.

1:26 pm - Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) asks about Google's privacy policies, and whether they apply when they are tracked with cookies by ads. Pichai says that Google Ad Services are covered by its privacy policies. He also asked about whether Google Voice records conversations. Pichai says that when Voice is triggered, it's treated like a search query and that users have the choice as to whether that data is stored.

1:21 pm - Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asks about the employment process for Google's search team. Pichai noted that there's over 1,000 people on the search team. King complained that the names of these engineers are unknown to the public and he asked if Google looked into their public social media. Pichai said that the company supports free expression and doesn't investigate the private lives of its employees, and notes that the page ranking algorithms are prioritized by users, not the engineers.

1:15 pm - Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) complains about Google's selection of legal advocacy non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center as a "trusted flagger" of its content and accuses Pichai of being surrounded by "liberality" that "hates conservatives." He then complained about Google featuring Wikipedia in its search results. Gohmert suggests that when such content partners are subject to any legal liability, Google should be held liable as well. Gohmert asked no questions and so Pichai provided no response.

1:09 pm - Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) asked specifically about Google's policies with respect to predatory ads. Pichai said that Google has strict policies for consumer protection against predatory ads but admits it's an area where the company is trying to do better.

1:04 pm - Rothfus asked Pichai more about China, particularly in the context of what Rothfus describes as "drifting authoritarianism" in China. He asked if Google designed a prototype for a search engine that could be used in China. Pichai admitted there was an exploratory project to demonsrate what a search engine would look like if it was deployed in a country like China, and admitted that over 100 people were involved in such a project.

1:02 pm- Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) asks how Google ensures ideological diversity among its employees and staff. Pichai says that Google does promote different viewpoints among its staff.

12:56 pm- Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asks about the issue of forced arbitration in resolving claims with corporations, a practice that Google ended when it came to issues of sexual harassment. She asked if Pichai would commit to ending forced arbitration agreements for other cases involving civil rights. Pichai said that it's an issue that Google is looking further into.

12:52pm - Handel also asked about Google's work in providing election information. Pichai said there were no direct efforts, but that for example the Google home page provided links to polling locations and times.

12:49 pm- Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) asks if paid users of Google Suite products have different privacy policies compared to free products like Gmail. Pichai stated that privacy protections are the same for all users.

12:46 pm - Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) asks about a Washington Post article published today of discredited conspiracy theories spreading on YouTube. Pichai said that the company is working to better monitor such content.

12:41 pm - Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) asks how Google can protect its results from foreign powers. Pichai says that there are a lot of robust systems that prevent one person from having significant impact on such results. Biggs goes on to more pointedly ask about Google's work with China, particularly with respect to data sharing with the Chinese government. Pichai says there is no sharing with China because it has no products with user data deployed in China and no agreements with the Chinese government on data. Biggs went on to ask about data sharing with the U.S. government, and Pichai said that Google is responsive to valid law enforcement requests.

12:36 pm - Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) began his questions by first criticizing about his colleagues' complaints about Google's political bias, which he says aren't in keeping in the spirit of the First Amendment, which protects the speech of companies like Google. He then showed off a poster showing search results for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-VA), and it showed the top results were positive and featured conservative news outlets. He then noted that the first search for Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was negative. But then asked Pichai - is there anyone specifically manipulating results? Pichai said no there isn't.

12:30 pm - Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) asks about a Google project, Perspective, which uses machine learning to filter out unacceptable content. Johnson asks how Google can guarantee that tool won't filter out conservative content. Pichai responded by stating that Perspective is intended to be a tool for other publishers, and it's up to them to make decisions about filtering.

12:28 pm - Stock watch: GOOG is now at 1057.16, down from the start of the hearing but 4.52 higher than yesterday's close.

12:26 pm - Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) asks about Google's local searches about businesses, and whether those searches can take advantage of third-party information and not just Google reviews. Pichai says that Google utilizes a large number of sources, including its own data.

12:21 pm - Rep. Matthew Gaetz (R-FL) asks if Google has launched an investigation into political bias among its employees. Pichai outlines the steps necessary to change Google's search algorithms, which involve committees and user testing. Gaetz goes on to complain that there's a Google discussion group of people who oppose President Trump's political agenda. Pichai denies any knowledge of such a group, but stated that Google's systems are designed with protections to prevent against bad faith actors.

12:11 pm - Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) changes the topic to Google's impact on the competitive landscape, and asks whether Google will end what he calls discriminatory practices against competitors such as those found by the EU. Pichai said Google is appealing that EU finding and that it doesn't discriminate against competitors.

12:08 pm- Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) asked a series of questions about what kinds of data that Google collects - but also what Google doesn't collect. Pichai said that the company aims to minimize the amount of data it collects to what's necessary. Collins followed up by asking how many people know they can control what data Google collects. Pichai says that Google provides reminders about checking up on data collection settings.

11:59 am- Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) asks what Google is doing to protect the integrity of its search results from manipulative bots and "troll farms." Pichai says that Google deals with bots on a number of issues like Spam, and that Google works with law enforcement and its own data to look for spikes in activity that make it clear they're not caused by humans.

11:55am - Marino asks what Google does to protect the security of its users from hackers. This is an issue that Pichai says, "keeps me up at night" and that Google works with law enforcement to have a comprehensive approach.

11:54am - Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) returns the tenor of the conversation to Google in China. He asks if anything has changed since Google chose to leave China in 2010. Pichai re-iterated that Google has no plans to launch a search product in China, and says that if that changes, he'd be transparent with U.S. policymakers about it.

11:46 am - Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) asks whether Google should be accountable for the content on its platforms. Pichai says that it has a responsibility to provide accurate information.

11:43am - Poe asks what Google considers objectionable in terms of extreme political views. Pichai responds with its hate speech policy, which Google defines as inciting hate or violence.

11:41 am - Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asks whether Google could tell his location in the room based on the data in his iPhone. Pichai says that it wouldn't be by default and that it would depend on its application settings. Poe brings up the EU's GDPR, which he has introduced legislation to introduce similar protections from into U.S. law.

11:37 am - Johnson moved on to more concerns about the protection of Google's user data and how users can trust the company with their information. Pichai says that software inevitably has bugs, but that Google invests a lot of resources into finding exploitable bugs to keep information and data secure. He also asks what Google does with geolocation data. Pichai says that Google never sells user data, and gives its users control over how their data is used to deliver ads to them.

11:34 am - Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) followed up on Jordan's line of questioning about whether Google had paid for such efforts. Pichai categorically denied that it provides any partisan election features.

11:32 am- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) discusses an email from a Google employee about pushing out the Latino vote "in key states." Pichai denied that Google had any involvement in partisan election efforts, and that Google had no involvement in partisan election efforts or pay for voters. He said that an internal investigation found no evidence for partisan organizations, and that Google provides information to voters about registration and polling locations. He said that Google did not provide any support to get out the vote for any segment of the population.

11:25 am - Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) complains about the like of phone support for Google customer help. He moves on to ask about the use of bots on YouTube by governments like Russia to downvote content from human rights activists. Pichai says that Google is committed to free expression, and that the company works to counter bots that behave in this manner. Steve Cohen then says he did a search for himself and found that the top results were primarily conservative news sites like The Daily Caller and Bretibart even though he appeared on MSNBC that weekend. Pichai again re-iterated that Google's search results work in a politically neutral manner.

11:20am - Stock watch: GOOG is now at 1054.16, down from the start of the hearing but up on yesterday's close.

11:19 am - Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) continues the line of questioning about political bias in search results, pointing to perceived results that bias exists among the search engine results. Pichai again replies that its algorithms don't include such bias. Issa moves on to ask whether Google's dashboards on Android phones can be improved to be more transparent about privacy. "It's an area where we want to do better," agrees Pichai.

11:14 am - Jackson-Lee's next question is about how YouTube is promoting diversity among its employees. Pichai says the company does reach out to minority communities and wants to ensure they're represented. He highlights that Google was one of the first to publish its internal diversity numbers but that it's an issue they're committed to doing more.

11:12am - Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) asks whether Google takes down hate speech directs violence, to which Pichai responds that it does. She then asks whether Google will protect privacy in email, to which Pichai says it does. She also asked whether Google is doing anything to halt to sale of unsafe or ineffective medicines. Pichai says that it's working with law enforcement on such efforts. She then asked about Google's plans in China, to which Pichai responded that Google has no plans to launch search in China.

11:07am - Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) has the floor, and begins with a line of argument of his own first-hand experience in having to go to a 3rd or 4th page of search results to find good things about Republican-proposed health care policy or the recently passed Republican tax cut bill. Pichai says that he understands the frustration in seeing negative news - which he sees when he searches for himself and Google. He states that the algorithm reflects what is being said objectively, which he says is without regard to political ideology. Chabot disagrees: "You've got somebody out there" changing search results. Pichai said that he's happy to follow up and explain more about how the process works. Chabot concludes just by thanking Google for its work in supporting small business.

11:01am - Lofgren asks a little about how search works, highlighting that it's not "just a little man behind a curtain" making decisions about search results. Pichai notes that the search engine is mostly driven algorithmically and done at scale.

10:59 am - Lofgren builds on Goodlatte's question and asks if she has an Android phone with no apps on it, what data is collected? Pichai says that by default, location is turned on, and that IP addresses also provide some location info.

10:58 am - Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) whose district includes San Jose, asks a "parochial" question about how an expansion of Google's headquarters will impact the local housing market. Pichai says that Google is working to minimize such an impact.

10:55 am - Smith asks Pichai whether Google would allow third-parties to investigate its search results for political bias. Pichai says that such third-party studies have happened, and that Google publishes its search guidelines. Smith asks whether any employee has been sanctioned for "manipulating search results" to which Pichai says it would be impossible for one employee to make such changes.

10:54 am - Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) opens his questions claiming that Google is using its platform to censor conservative views. He cites a claim from PJ Media that 96% of searches for Trump come from "left-leaning sources" as a sign that Google is not operating objectively. (Note: Politifact found that this PJ Media claim is false.) Pichai replied to this by claiming first of all that several citations that Smith cited were inaccurate and had problems with methodology. But he said he'd be happy to provide Google's findings to Smith's office. Pichai says that the top news sources on media reflect a diversity of sources.

10:50 am - Nadler's last question is about the spread of hate speech, particularly on YouTube. Pichai says that YouTube's content policies are clear and that they take actions accordingly when they're violated.

10:49 am - Nadler's next line of questioning is about the extent of how Russian agents have used Google to spread misinformation. Pichai said that Google's investigation uncovered to major ad accounts that were serving this, and that the company took steps to prevent Russia and other foreign powers are doing the same. It looks more into how ads are bought and where purchases are located, he said, and will work with law enforcement on identifying actions of those powers.

10:47 am - Jerry Nadler (D-CA) opens by asking what legal obligation Google has to reveal data exposures like the bug in Google Plus. Pichai responded by saying it was generally reported within 72 hours.

10:44am - Stock watch: The hearing doesn't seem to be hurting Google's stock right now, which is sitting at 1062.18

10:43 am - Goodlatte shifts gears to the question of filtering objectionable content. He notes that objectionable content can also be the most engaging, setting up a conflict of interest of revenue. Goodlatte asked Pichai whether Google wants to filter out objectionable material for a "healthier civic dialogue." Pichai replied by stating that filtering out objectionable content is healthier for Google and YouTube in the long run.

10:41 am - Goodlatte asks Pichai whether its true that Android phones send location and other data to Google "every few minutes." Pichai notes that what data is collected depends on what apps users choose to use. For example, he says, someone with a Fitbit app wants that data to be transferred. Pichai says that yes, the phones send data to Google but insists that it's transparent. Goodlatte was also interested in what Google's users know about what data is collected. Pichai responds to this by highlighting the company's Privacy Checkup, which prompts users about their privacy settings.

10:37 am - Sundar Pichai has been sworn in and gave a summary version of the written testimony that was released earlier. In it, he highlighted Google's America's roots and notes that Google has a presence in a number of states and noted that it has over 24,000 employees and brings over $150 billion into the U.S. economy. "Protecting the privacy of our users" is a priority for the company, he says. He also highlights his claim that there's no political bias in Google's products, and that the company's employees feature a wide diversity of opinion.

10:31 am - Ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-NY) gave his opening statement. Like Goodlatte, he notes the public reliance on Google and notes his questions about the collection of private data. However, he goes on to dismiss the idea that Google has an "anti-conservative bias" and claims that such "fact-free propaganda" engenders mistrust of tech companies. He adds, thought, that even if Google did discriminate against conservative viewpoints, that's its right as a private company, just like Fox News, and "shouldn't be questioned by government." But he does want to know how Google plans to stop "hostile foreign powers" from using Google's platform to spread disinformation. He's also interested in knowing how Google plans to deal with the spread of communication from groups that lead to rise in hate crimes and other bigoted action. He concludes with concerns about Google's market dominance and whether other companies can compete, about the spread of pirated material on Google, how Google protects private data in light of revealed bugs in Google Plus that could lead to misuse of data, and whether Google plans to build a censored search engine in China.

10:25 am - Goodlatte continued in his statement to know that studies have shown that search engine rankings can shift voting patterns of undecided voters, and raises questions about how the search engine might influence democracy. Additionally, in talking about privacy, he says that most people with Android phones likely have no idea how many sensors are collecting data at a given time. He goes on to note that Google is basically unavoidable, since its ads are served all over the internet and its search tool is often the default even on non-Google-owned sites and products. He closes his statement by citing Google as an example of "the American dream" founded by two people in a garage.

10:19 am - Judiciary chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) give his opening statement, highlighting the amount of data that Google collects from its search engine, Gmail, Android operating system and others. He notes that yes, consumers consent to this via Terms of Service agreements, but that they likely "have no idea" how much data is being collected. He also says that Google is often the "first and last stop" for people getting information on the internet, and says that the Committee wants to investigate how Google makes decisions about filtering content in search results. "Americans deserve to know what information they're not getting" when they use Google search, he says.

10:12 am - The hearing started a few minutes late with an introduction from Chairman Goodlatte and an opening statement from Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who notes Google's dominance of the search engine market and claims that the American public increasingly distrusts technology companies. He goes further to set the stage for the hearing, with questions about whether political bias impacts Google search results, whether it promotes free-market ideals, and speaking concerns about reports that Google is preparing a censored search engine for China. He pointedly asks: "Are America's technology companies serving as instruments of freedom, or instruments of control?"

9:55am - As we get ready for the hearings to begin, we'll be keeping an eye on Google's stock price, which right now is at 1,064.60 - up a little over a percent from yesterday's close. Stock prices have a tendency to be volatile during Congressional testimony. When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, his company's stock dropped over 6%.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Testifies Before House Judiciary CommitteeGetty Images

On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai endured nearly three and a half hours of questioning in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the company he leads, including its market position, complaints of political bias, and concerns over it launching a censored search product in China.

Although other tech CEOs have struggled under the pressure of Congressional questioning, Pichai remained relatively cool throughout and stuck to more repetitive answers to lines of questioning that came from both parties.

Three big issues that came up during the hearing were allegations that Google search results are biased against conservative viewpoints and news sources; concerns over how Android devices collect data; and pointed questions about whether Google was planning a censored search product for China. Other issues that arose included concerns over Google’s market dominance, forced arbitration of employee claims, and how content is filtered on Google’s platform.

“The technology behind online services like social media and Internet search engines can also be used to suppress particular viewpoints and manipulate public opinion,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said in a statement before the hearing. “Americans put their trust in big tech companies to honor freedom of speech and champion open dialogue, and it is Congress’ responsibility to the American people to make sure these tech giants are transparent and accountable in their practices.”

Allegations that Google’s search results are biased against conservatives was the theme of a number of questioners - indeed, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) spent his five minutes making allegations without actually asking any questions of Pichai at all. Democrats mostly dismissed these allegations, though Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) complained that when he searched his own name previously, the results tended to be from conservative news organizations.

In response to these allegations, Pichai mostly stuck to variations on the line that was included in his written testimony, “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way.” He re-iterated that Google’s search results can’t be manipulated by one person and that it’s designed to be robust and responsive to user feedback.

A number of members of both parties had a lot of pointed questions about the way that Android devices and Google products collect data. For example, Chairman Goodlatte’s opening statement noted that Android products collect a lot of data and that while many consumers may consent to this data collection via terms of service, most of them “have no idea” what’s being collected.

On numerous occasions during this line of questioning, Pichai stated that Google was working to make it easier for consumers to understand its privacy policies. That includes simplifying its privacy dashboards and sending reminders to users to check up on their privacy settings. Still, he admitted that the company still as a lot of work to do in that area.

The other line of questioning that both parties agreed on involved expressing concern over Google’s Project Dragonfly, which Pichai described to the Committee as an exploratory project to see how a search product might operate in China. Pichai admitted that over 100 employees had worked on the project over the course of a number of months, but denied that Google had any plans to expand a search product to China.

That said, the prospect of a potential Chinese expansion did seem to be on his mind. On several occasions, Pichai noted part of Google’s mission is to “explore possibilities to give users access to information,” but he tried to ensure lawmakers that the company would engage with U.S. policymakers before taking any steps to move into China.

A number of references were made also during the hearing to Google’s market dominance in search, including wielding of a number claiming that 90% of searchers are made on Google’s platform. These stats from eMarketer highlight how Google compares to its search rivals.

US search ad revenues

US search ad revenueseMarketer

Pichai seemed to bristle at this particular claim, stating that the stat doesn’t adequately reflect how people search. He noted, for example, that studies of searches for products to shop for don’t include Amazon, which he said was many consumers’ go-to first stop for shopping. 

You can watch the entire hearing on the video below, or you can catch up with the archive of our live blogging of the hearings, which begin below the video.

Live Updates:

1:37pm - It's been about 3 and a half hours and the hearing is now over. The members of the committee will have 5 days to submit more questions for Pichai to respond to in writing later. Google's stock at the end of this ordeal? 1057.87 - about 6.73 lower than when it started. But still higher than yesterday's close.

1:33 pm - Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) asks about what Google is doing to educate its users about a privacy policy that she says is "20 pages long" and "changes multiple times per year." Pichai said that it's working to make its dashboards clearer and also make it possible to reduce the number of controls. "We're trying to match with user expectations" - for example, if users search for a restaurant, they want local restaurants. Pichai says that he agrees there's more work to be done and that it still needs to be more simplified.

1:26 pm - Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) asks about Google's privacy policies, and whether they apply when they are tracked with cookies by ads. Pichai says that Google Ad Services are covered by its privacy policies. He also asked about whether Google Voice records conversations. Pichai says that when Voice is triggered, it's treated like a search query and that users have the choice as to whether that data is stored.

1:21 pm - Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asks about the employment process for Google's search team. Pichai noted that there's over 1,000 people on the search team. King complained that the names of these engineers are unknown to the public and he asked if Google looked into their public social media. Pichai said that the company supports free expression and doesn't investigate the private lives of its employees, and notes that the page ranking algorithms are prioritized by users, not the engineers.

1:15 pm - Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) complains about Google's selection of legal advocacy non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center as a "trusted flagger" of its content and accuses Pichai of being surrounded by "liberality" that "hates conservatives." He then complained about Google featuring Wikipedia in its search results. Gohmert suggests that when such content partners are subject to any legal liability, Google should be held liable as well. Gohmert asked no questions and so Pichai provided no response.

1:09 pm - Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) asked specifically about Google's policies with respect to predatory ads. Pichai said that Google has strict policies for consumer protection against predatory ads but admits it's an area where the company is trying to do better.

1:04 pm - Rothfus asked Pichai more about China, particularly in the context of what Rothfus describes as "drifting authoritarianism" in China. He asked if Google designed a prototype for a search engine that could be used in China. Pichai admitted there was an exploratory project to demonsrate what a search engine would look like if it was deployed in a country like China, and admitted that over 100 people were involved in such a project.

1:02 pm- Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) asks how Google ensures ideological diversity among its employees and staff. Pichai says that Google does promote different viewpoints among its staff.

12:56 pm- Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asks about the issue of forced arbitration in resolving claims with corporations, a practice that Google ended when it came to issues of sexual harassment. She asked if Pichai would commit to ending forced arbitration agreements for other cases involving civil rights. Pichai said that it's an issue that Google is looking further into.

12:52pm - Handel also asked about Google's work in providing election information. Pichai said there were no direct efforts, but that for example the Google home page provided links to polling locations and times.

12:49 pm- Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) asks if paid users of Google Suite products have different privacy policies compared to free products like Gmail. Pichai stated that privacy protections are the same for all users.

12:46 pm - Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) asks about a Washington Post article published today of discredited conspiracy theories spreading on YouTube. Pichai said that the company is working to better monitor such content.

12:41 pm - Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) asks how Google can protect its results from foreign powers. Pichai says that there are a lot of robust systems that prevent one person from having significant impact on such results. Biggs goes on to more pointedly ask about Google's work with China, particularly with respect to data sharing with the Chinese government. Pichai says there is no sharing with China because it has no products with user data deployed in China and no agreements with the Chinese government on data. Biggs went on to ask about data sharing with the U.S. government, and Pichai said that Google is responsive to valid law enforcement requests.

12:36 pm - Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) began his questions by first criticizing about his colleagues' complaints about Google's political bias, which he says aren't in keeping in the spirit of the First Amendment, which protects the speech of companies like Google. He then showed off a poster showing search results for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-VA), and it showed the top results were positive and featured conservative news outlets. He then noted that the first search for Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was negative. But then asked Pichai - is there anyone specifically manipulating results? Pichai said no there isn't.

12:30 pm - Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) asks about a Google project, Perspective, which uses machine learning to filter out unacceptable content. Johnson asks how Google can guarantee that tool won't filter out conservative content. Pichai responded by stating that Perspective is intended to be a tool for other publishers, and it's up to them to make decisions about filtering.

12:28 pm - Stock watch: GOOG is now at 1057.16, down from the start of the hearing but 4.52 higher than yesterday's close.

12:26 pm - Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) asks about Google's local searches about businesses, and whether those searches can take advantage of third-party information and not just Google reviews. Pichai says that Google utilizes a large number of sources, including its own data.

12:21 pm - Rep. Matthew Gaetz (R-FL) asks if Google has launched an investigation into political bias among its employees. Pichai outlines the steps necessary to change Google's search algorithms, which involve committees and user testing. Gaetz goes on to complain that there's a Google discussion group of people who oppose President Trump's political agenda. Pichai denies any knowledge of such a group, but stated that Google's systems are designed with protections to prevent against bad faith actors.

12:11 pm - Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) changes the topic to Google's impact on the competitive landscape, and asks whether Google will end what he calls discriminatory practices against competitors such as those found by the EU. Pichai said Google is appealing that EU finding and that it doesn't discriminate against competitors.

12:08 pm- Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) asked a series of questions about what kinds of data that Google collects - but also what Google doesn't collect. Pichai said that the company aims to minimize the amount of data it collects to what's necessary. Collins followed up by asking how many people know they can control what data Google collects. Pichai says that Google provides reminders about checking up on data collection settings.

11:59 am- Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) asks what Google is doing to protect the integrity of its search results from manipulative bots and "troll farms." Pichai says that Google deals with bots on a number of issues like Spam, and that Google works with law enforcement and its own data to look for spikes in activity that make it clear they're not caused by humans.

11:55am - Marino asks what Google does to protect the security of its users from hackers. This is an issue that Pichai says, "keeps me up at night" and that Google works with law enforcement to have a comprehensive approach.

11:54am - Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) returns the tenor of the conversation to Google in China. He asks if anything has changed since Google chose to leave China in 2010. Pichai re-iterated that Google has no plans to launch a search product in China, and says that if that changes, he'd be transparent with U.S. policymakers about it.

11:46 am - Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) asks whether Google should be accountable for the content on its platforms. Pichai says that it has a responsibility to provide accurate information.

11:43am - Poe asks what Google considers objectionable in terms of extreme political views. Pichai responds with its hate speech policy, which Google defines as inciting hate or violence.

11:41 am - Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asks whether Google could tell his location in the room based on the data in his iPhone. Pichai says that it wouldn't be by default and that it would depend on its application settings. Poe brings up the EU's GDPR, which he has introduced legislation to introduce similar protections from into U.S. law.

11:37 am - Johnson moved on to more concerns about the protection of Google's user data and how users can trust the company with their information. Pichai says that software inevitably has bugs, but that Google invests a lot of resources into finding exploitable bugs to keep information and data secure. He also asks what Google does with geolocation data. Pichai says that Google never sells user data, and gives its users control over how their data is used to deliver ads to them.

11:34 am - Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) followed up on Jordan's line of questioning about whether Google had paid for such efforts. Pichai categorically denied that it provides any partisan election features.

11:32 am- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) discusses an email from a Google employee about pushing out the Latino vote "in key states." Pichai denied that Google had any involvement in partisan election efforts, and that Google had no involvement in partisan election efforts or pay for voters. He said that an internal investigation found no evidence for partisan organizations, and that Google provides information to voters about registration and polling locations. He said that Google did not provide any support to get out the vote for any segment of the population.

11:25 am - Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) complains about the like of phone support for Google customer help. He moves on to ask about the use of bots on YouTube by governments like Russia to downvote content from human rights activists. Pichai says that Google is committed to free expression, and that the company works to counter bots that behave in this manner. Steve Cohen then says he did a search for himself and found that the top results were primarily conservative news sites like The Daily Caller and Bretibart even though he appeared on MSNBC that weekend. Pichai again re-iterated that Google's search results work in a politically neutral manner.

11:20am - Stock watch: GOOG is now at 1054.16, down from the start of the hearing but up on yesterday's close.

11:19 am - Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) continues the line of questioning about political bias in search results, pointing to perceived results that bias exists among the search engine results. Pichai again replies that its algorithms don't include such bias. Issa moves on to ask whether Google's dashboards on Android phones can be improved to be more transparent about privacy. "It's an area where we want to do better," agrees Pichai.

11:14 am - Jackson-Lee's next question is about how YouTube is promoting diversity among its employees. Pichai says the company does reach out to minority communities and wants to ensure they're represented. He highlights that Google was one of the first to publish its internal diversity numbers but that it's an issue they're committed to doing more.

11:12am - Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) asks whether Google takes down hate speech directs violence, to which Pichai responds that it does. She then asks whether Google will protect privacy in email, to which Pichai says it does. She also asked whether Google is doing anything to halt to sale of unsafe or ineffective medicines. Pichai says that it's working with law enforcement on such efforts. She then asked about Google's plans in China, to which Pichai responded that Google has no plans to launch search in China.

11:07am - Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) has the floor, and begins with a line of argument of his own first-hand experience in having to go to a 3rd or 4th page of search results to find good things about Republican-proposed health care policy or the recently passed Republican tax cut bill. Pichai says that he understands the frustration in seeing negative news - which he sees when he searches for himself and Google. He states that the algorithm reflects what is being said objectively, which he says is without regard to political ideology. Chabot disagrees: "You've got somebody out there" changing search results. Pichai said that he's happy to follow up and explain more about how the process works. Chabot concludes just by thanking Google for its work in supporting small business.

11:01am - Lofgren asks a little about how search works, highlighting that it's not "just a little man behind a curtain" making decisions about search results. Pichai notes that the search engine is mostly driven algorithmically and done at scale.

10:59 am - Lofgren builds on Goodlatte's question and asks if she has an Android phone with no apps on it, what data is collected? Pichai says that by default, location is turned on, and that IP addresses also provide some location info.

10:58 am - Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) whose district includes San Jose, asks a "parochial" question about how an expansion of Google's headquarters will impact the local housing market. Pichai says that Google is working to minimize such an impact.

10:55 am - Smith asks Pichai whether Google would allow third-parties to investigate its search results for political bias. Pichai says that such third-party studies have happened, and that Google publishes its search guidelines. Smith asks whether any employee has been sanctioned for "manipulating search results" to which Pichai says it would be impossible for one employee to make such changes.

10:54 am - Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) opens his questions claiming that Google is using its platform to censor conservative views. He cites a claim from PJ Media that 96% of searches for Trump come from "left-leaning sources" as a sign that Google is not operating objectively. (Note: Politifact found that this PJ Media claim is false.) Pichai replied to this by claiming first of all that several citations that Smith cited were inaccurate and had problems with methodology. But he said he'd be happy to provide Google's findings to Smith's office. Pichai says that the top news sources on media reflect a diversity of sources.

10:50 am - Nadler's last question is about the spread of hate speech, particularly on YouTube. Pichai says that YouTube's content policies are clear and that they take actions accordingly when they're violated.

10:49 am - Nadler's next line of questioning is about the extent of how Russian agents have used Google to spread misinformation. Pichai said that Google's investigation uncovered to major ad accounts that were serving this, and that the company took steps to prevent Russia and other foreign powers are doing the same. It looks more into how ads are bought and where purchases are located, he said, and will work with law enforcement on identifying actions of those powers.

10:47 am - Jerry Nadler (D-CA) opens by asking what legal obligation Google has to reveal data exposures like the bug in Google Plus. Pichai responded by saying it was generally reported within 72 hours.

10:44am - Stock watch: The hearing doesn't seem to be hurting Google's stock right now, which is sitting at 1062.18

10:43 am - Goodlatte shifts gears to the question of filtering objectionable content. He notes that objectionable content can also be the most engaging, setting up a conflict of interest of revenue. Goodlatte asked Pichai whether Google wants to filter out objectionable material for a "healthier civic dialogue." Pichai replied by stating that filtering out objectionable content is healthier for Google and YouTube in the long run.

10:41 am - Goodlatte asks Pichai whether its true that Android phones send location and other data to Google "every few minutes." Pichai notes that what data is collected depends on what apps users choose to use. For example, he says, someone with a Fitbit app wants that data to be transferred. Pichai says that yes, the phones send data to Google but insists that it's transparent. Goodlatte was also interested in what Google's users know about what data is collected. Pichai responds to this by highlighting the company's Privacy Checkup, which prompts users about their privacy settings.

10:37 am - Sundar Pichai has been sworn in and gave a summary version of the written testimony that was released earlier. In it, he highlighted Google's America's roots and notes that Google has a presence in a number of states and noted that it has over 24,000 employees and brings over $150 billion into the U.S. economy. "Protecting the privacy of our users" is a priority for the company, he says. He also highlights his claim that there's no political bias in Google's products, and that the company's employees feature a wide diversity of opinion.

10:31 am - Ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-NY) gave his opening statement. Like Goodlatte, he notes the public reliance on Google and notes his questions about the collection of private data. However, he goes on to dismiss the idea that Google has an "anti-conservative bias" and claims that such "fact-free propaganda" engenders mistrust of tech companies. He adds, thought, that even if Google did discriminate against conservative viewpoints, that's its right as a private company, just like Fox News, and "shouldn't be questioned by government." But he does want to know how Google plans to stop "hostile foreign powers" from using Google's platform to spread disinformation. He's also interested in knowing how Google plans to deal with the spread of communication from groups that lead to rise in hate crimes and other bigoted action. He concludes with concerns about Google's market dominance and whether other companies can compete, about the spread of pirated material on Google, how Google protects private data in light of revealed bugs in Google Plus that could lead to misuse of data, and whether Google plans to build a censored search engine in China.

10:25 am - Goodlatte continued in his statement to know that studies have shown that search engine rankings can shift voting patterns of undecided voters, and raises questions about how the search engine might influence democracy. Additionally, in talking about privacy, he says that most people with Android phones likely have no idea how many sensors are collecting data at a given time. He goes on to note that Google is basically unavoidable, since its ads are served all over the internet and its search tool is often the default even on non-Google-owned sites and products. He closes his statement by citing Google as an example of "the American dream" founded by two people in a garage.

10:19 am - Judiciary chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) give his opening statement, highlighting the amount of data that Google collects from its search engine, Gmail, Android operating system and others. He notes that yes, consumers consent to this via Terms of Service agreements, but that they likely "have no idea" how much data is being collected. He also says that Google is often the "first and last stop" for people getting information on the internet, and says that the Committee wants to investigate how Google makes decisions about filtering content in search results. "Americans deserve to know what information they're not getting" when they use Google search, he says.

10:12 am - The hearing started a few minutes late with an introduction from Chairman Goodlatte and an opening statement from Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who notes Google's dominance of the search engine market and claims that the American public increasingly distrusts technology companies. He goes further to set the stage for the hearing, with questions about whether political bias impacts Google search results, whether it promotes free-market ideals, and speaking concerns about reports that Google is preparing a censored search engine for China. He pointedly asks: "Are America's technology companies serving as instruments of freedom, or instruments of control?"

9:55am - As we get ready for the hearings to begin, we'll be keeping an eye on Google's stock price, which right now is at 1,064.60 - up a little over a percent from yesterday's close. Stock prices have a tendency to be volatile during Congressional testimony. When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, his company's stock dropped over 6%.

Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2018/12/11/follow-along-with-google-ceo-sundar-pichais-testimony-before-congress-here-1/

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai Answered Congressional Questions On China, Privacy, Political Bias And More
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