Google CEO Sundar Pichai was grilled by US lawmakers from the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Pictures from the hearing suggest that he was not amused by the questions asked. Although he strove hard to explain himself, his face said it all.
The committee inquired about a number of issues such as how Google handled the Cambridge Analytica data breach, search biases and manipulation of data and whether the company was colluding with China to give it a censored search engine.
While it seemed a very serious affair, the questions asked by some members of the Committee served to unintentionally lighten the atmosphere.
The CEO arrived happy and confident for the hearing on 'Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices' but did not know what lay in store for him.
iPhones by Google? NO
When Congressman Rep. Steve King asked Pichai to explain why his iPhone was throwing up random news articles, Pichai was forced to disclose to him that iPhones aren't a Google product. The answer did not seem satisfactory to King who added "It might have been an Android. It’s just, it was a hand-me-down of some kind.” Clearly, he had no idea what he was talking about.
Descent into idiocy
Pichai was asked why pictures of Donald Trump turned up while Googling the word 'idiot', with the inference being that Google was politically biased. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren wondered if Google wasn't run by 'some tiny man behind the curtain' rather than algorithms.
Pichai had to explain that the search results were based on billions of keywords and factors such as relevance, popularity and search terms.
The China Syndrome
Lawmakers seemed a bit worried about Google romancing China again. Google and China had a fallout in 2010 after differences in opinion over the Chinese government's policies. Pichai put their fears to rest and said Google is only considering a possible search engine in China but not releasing it anytime soon.
After three and a half hours of grilling, the session ended, making it clear that the Committee was technologically challenged. It looks like Pichai had the last laugh after all.