The 47-year-old CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet (he assumed the latter post from cofounder Larry Page in December 2019) was already dealing with antitrust allegations, employee unrest , and a feeling that as a trillion-dollar behemoth dominating global search and advertising, the company’s mojo as a charming innovator was fading.
In a blog post, Pichai said the milestone affirmed his belief that quantum computers might one day tackle problems like climate change , and name-checked John Martinis, who had established Google’s quantum hardware group in 2014.Here’s what Pichai didn’t mention: Soon after the team had first got its quantum supremacy experiment working a few months earlier, Martinis says, he had been reassigned from a leadership position to an advisory one.
But this perfectly captures the US tech industry’s shift toward talking regulation—just in a way that benefits itself—and the related risks of allowing private corporations to set the American (or even global) agenda on technology governance.Zeroing in on the singular technology thus pivots regulation dialogue in the corporate favor, away from talk of more fundamental, government-driven change.
Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an to his 100,000 or so employees, cutting back the company’s defining all-hands meeting known as TGIF.
The drop in employee sentiment helps explain why internal debate around compensation, pay equity, and trust in executives has heated up in recent weeks—and why an HR presentation from 2016 went viral inside the company three years later.
And at Tuesday's questioning of Pichai by the House Judiciary Committee, a string of Republicans hit their cues, insisting that the negative results from a Google search of their names or favored legislation must have been personally typed out by vengeful programmers in far-left California.Noam Cohen is an Ideas contributor at WIRED, a writer living in Brooklyn, and the author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball.Pichai patiently explained what an algorithm was and how Google’s algorithm had no reason to offend Republicans.
The rhetorical tennis match left precious little time for committee members to explore in any detail the urgent questions around Google's interest in building a censored search engine for China, the company's bulk data collection practices, its recent security breaches, or issues related to competition and antitrust regulation.Like earlier House hearings with tech leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the day proved heavy on theatrics and light on substance—complete with audience appearances by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Roger Stone, the conservative provocateur who now finds himself at the center of the Russia probe.The hearing was more than a missed opportunity for both lawmakers and members of the public.
At the time, Google's support page claimed that "With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored." After the AP report was published, the company updated the language to say, "Your settings for other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device, are not changed." This impacts Android users and iPhone users who have the Google Maps app.Google said it collects this data to "improve people’s experience" and allows people to delete this history whenever they want.