U.S. lawmakers grill Google Chief on censorship, bias, personal data

U.S. lawmakers started a hearing with the Chief Executive of Google, Sundar Pichai, on Tuesday on censorship, bias and personal data.

The hearing took place amid accusations that the company is engaging in censorship in China and allegations by conservatives that the company had a liberal political bias.

The chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee also raised concerns about how Google stores and handles personal data, including the location of users and browsing habits.

Google is also under pressure over data leaks.

“I think it is fair to say that most Americans have no idea the sheer volume of information that is collected,’’ Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said.

He also noted that it was nearly impossible to avoid Google.

One study estimates Google runs 90 per cent of internet searches.

Mr Pichai said the collection of data was something that users opted into and called it “transparent,’’ while urging customers to review their privacy setting.

Republicans like Mr Goodlatte accused Google of a liberal bias, a theme expected to come up during the hearing.

Mr Pichai outright rejected this claim and insisted individual engineers could sway the leanings of search results.

Reports have indicated Google is working with China to develop a search engine that would fit into the country’s censorship system and government efforts to track citizens.

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Majority Leader in the House said the committee must check whether U.S. companies were serving as “instruments of freedom’’ or of control.

The United States needs to know Google “is on the side of the free internet,’’ he added. (dpa/NAN)