US: Google’s Pichai talks antitrust, privacy concerns

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, on Wednesday discussed the data privacy and antitrust concerns that people and regulators have raised about the company and other technology giants, saying that “privacy is at the heart of what we do” and that Alphabet/Google doesn’t pursue scale for scale’s sake.

During a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that was entitled “An insight, an idea with Sundar Pichai,” he was questioned about General Data Protection Regulations (GDPRs), calling them “a great template” that provides a “standardized privacy framework.”

“For us, privacy is at the heart of what we do,” Pichai said. “Users come to Google at very important moments, ask us questions, we deal with people’s sensitive information in Gmail, Google Photos and so on, and so we have to earn their trust. Today we do it by giving them control and transparency and choice around it.”

Over time, he argued artificial intelligence (AI) could allow the company to do better. “We can do that [work] with less data over time,” he said. “We can use AI to actually preserve privacy.”

He also emphasized that “privacy can not be a luxury good,” adding: “We need to make sure we [serve] up services in a way that works for everyone, but puts them first and is privacy-enhancing.”

Asked about Google’s regular acquisitions of startup companies and past and current antitrust probes in the U.S. and Europe, Pichar said, “With our scale rightfully comes scrutiny. You are right [that] we have bought startups, but as a company we invest every single year in hundreds of startups through our venture arms. These support entrepreneurs and incubators around the world.”