How Google’s workforce took over the board

Sascha Matuszak (Sascha.matuszak@corporatecompliance.org) is a reporter at SCCE & HCCA in Minneapolis, MN, USA.

Last December, the House Judiciary Committee spent three-and-a-half hours with Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, and discussed partisan bias and the basics of location tracking and search algorithms. It was, by most accounts, a missed opportunity. Instead of digging deep into how Google collects and stores data, representatives quibbled over perceived political bias. Instead of seeking to understand exactly where one of the most powerful companies in the world stands on issues of privacy, cybersecurity, censorship, and a possible U.S. federal data protection regulation, the discussions devolved into partisan politics conspicuously devoid of technological expertise.

For his part, Pichai sidestepped any serious questions. When asked directly about Google’s Dragonfly project (i.e., a search engine built specifically for the Chinese government), he said that, “We have undertaken an internal effort, but right now there are no plans to launch a search service in China necessarily.”[1]

Pichai was able to avoid scrutiny of his company’s dealing with China – in the midst of an all-out “China Initiative” announced by the Department of Justice—and the conversation moved on. The committee missed several other opportunities to grill Pichai. Why wasn’t he pinned to the wall over the massive data breach involving Google+, for example? There was also no discussion of Project Maven, the $10 billion deal with the Pentagon that the company left on the table, and little talk of the legal problems the company faces in the European Union regarding forced consent, monopolization, and other issues.

There is another question no one thought to ask: What can we expect from one of the most powerful companies in the world when its employees can effectively alter major business decisions through public action?

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