Google goes to Congress… but what did we learn?
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Google goes to Congress… but what did we learn?

This week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who has previously been criticised for refusing invitations from Congress, finally appeared in front of US lawmakers. But what did we learn? Amongst some fairly minor, or fairly well-known, tech details, not a lot. Well, one thing became clearer: Congress doesn’t really understand Big Tech. Arguably, that’s worse for the government than it is for companies like Google – but it could have big ramifications if the US decides to introduce regulations on internet companies.

Google Graph

Source: Yahoo Finance

One of the more surreal moments in the discussion came when Pichai was asked why an image of President Donald Trump appeared in Google when the word “idiot” was typed into the search bar. The company’s CEO was noticeably surprised at congresswoman Zoe Lofgren’s lack of what is becoming basic knowledge. He said: “We take the keyword and match it against their pages and rank them based on over 200 signals -- things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it. Based on that, at any given time, we try to rank and find the best search results for that query.” Lofgren, bizarrely, had wanted to know whether search query answers were input manually by staff at the company.

Other highlights included Pichai’s playing down of the possible China app (‘Dragonfly’) that Google is working on – but he defended the company against allegations that embracing Chinese censorship would be unethical. Rather, he said, facilitating access to information was a moral positive. He also discussed Google’s location tracking, the extent of the information it gathers, and more.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Pichai said Google wasn’t anti-regulation, and thinks there’s space for something like GDPR in the US. He told Congress: "As a company, we want to lead the way." (By providing “location protection” for users). One thing’s for sure, if Congress wants to get in the game of internet regulation, it’s going to have to figure out how the space works first.

Disclosure

Dominion holds Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in its Global Trends Managed Fund.


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