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Google CEO Faces House Grilling        12/11 06:25

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Google's CEO faces a grilling from U.S. lawmakers on how 
the web search giant handled an alarming data breach and whether it may bend to 
Chinese government censorship demands.

   CEO Sundar Pichai's appearance Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee 
comes after he angered members of a Senate panel in September by declining 
their invitation to testify about foreign governments' manipulation of online 
services to sway U.S. elections. Pichai's no-show at that hearing was marked by 
an empty chair for Google alongside the Facebook and Twitter executives.

   Pichai went to Washington later in September to mend fences, meeting with 
some two dozen Republicans and indicating he also planned to meet with 
Democrats. He took part last week in a White House meeting with other tech 
industry executives that focused mainly on getting government and businesses 
working more closely on accelerating emerging technologies such as artificial 

   In October, Google announced it was shutting down its long-shunned Plus 
social network following its disclosure of a flaw discovered in March that 
could have exposed some personal information of as many as 500,000 people. The 
company deliberately avoided disclosing the privacy lapse at the time, in part 
to avoid drawing regulators' scrutiny and damaging its reputation, according to 
a Wall Street Journal report citing anonymous individuals and documents.

   Lawmakers want Google to explain its failure to reveal the breach.

   On Monday, the company said it was accelerating its plans to shutter Plus 
after discovering a privacy flaw that inadvertently exposed the names, email 
addresses, ages and other personal information of 52.5 million users last 
month. The service will now go dark in April instead of August, as previously 

   "We work hard to ensure the integrity of our products, and we've put a 
number of checks and balances in place to ensure they continue to live up to 
our standards," Pichai said in his opening statement prepared for Tuesday's 

   Lawmakers are also concerned by recent reports that Google is poised to 
re-enter China with a search engine generating censored results to comply with 
the demands of that country's Communist government.

   President Donald Trump has accused Google of rigging the results of its 
dominant search engine to suppress conservative viewpoints and highlight 
coverage from media that he says distribute "fake news." That's another area of 
potential questions to Pichai by committee members.

   The company has denied any political bias, and there's no evidence of an 
anti-conservative tilt. Pichai said in his written testimony that "I lead this 
company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to 
operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our 
business interests."

   Google has good reason to communicate with lawmakers and policymakers, and 
to seek to weigh in on thorny issues. Trump and some lawmakers have raised the 
possibility of asking regulators to investigate whether Google --- which 
handles nearly two of every three online searches in the U.S. --- has abused 
its clout as a major gateway to the internet to stifle competition.

   And momentum is building in Congress for legislation to put stricter limits 
and privacy protections around the big tech companies' collection of data. With 
the Democrats having captured control of the House in the midterm elections, 
and poised to take over as the majority running the Judiciary Committee next 
month, tougher legislation could be in the offing.

   Pichai, a former engineer, took the helm of Google in 2015 in a major 
restructuring that made Google a division of conglomerate Alphabet Inc. --- 
whose businesses include Waymo, a self-driving technology development company.  
Bolstering the dominance of its search engine, Google's Android operating 
system runs most of the world's smartphones, and its other services --- 
including Gmail, YouTube, online ads and the Chrome web browser --- are widely 


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