On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee had the opportunity to question Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, the company that filters all the world's information. The questions ranged from Google searches to how the the "tech stuff works". Usually, the questions at least involve products that their companies actually make. So, Google CEO Sundar Pichai got particularly unlucky at a hearing when Republician Steve King (R-IA) asked Mr Pichai to explain why his daughter’s iPhone was acting strangely.
“I have a seven-year-old granddaughter who picked up her phone during the election, and she’s playing a little game, the kind of game a kid would play,” King told Pichai. “And up on there pops a picture of her grandfather. And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: how does that show up on a seven-year-old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?", he asked.
Mr. Pichai hesitated:
“Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company. And so, you know, I mean...”
King, undeterred, decided that the brand of the phone wasn’t really important. “It might have been an Android. It’s just, it was a hand-me-down of some kind,” he said.
Unable to explain why a secondhand phone potentially made by a competing company would have displayed a random notification, Pichai offered to get back to the lawmaker.
“You know, I’m happy to follow up when I understand the specifics. There may be an application which was being used which had a notification. But I’m happy to understand it better and clarify it for you”, Google CEO said.
In the similar hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was asked to explain: "If you Google the word 'idiot' under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. How would that happen? How does search work so that that would occur?"
In the middle of a congressional hearing about privacy and data collection, Republican Zoe Lofgren, apparently performed that search from the dais. As it turns out, the image results for "idiot" reveals a page of mostly Trump photos.
"Any time you type in a keyword, as Google we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of [websites’] pages in our index. And we take the keyword and match it against their pages and rank them based on over 200 signals — things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it. And based on that, at any given time, we try to rank and find the best search results for that query. And then we evaluate them with external raters, and they evaluate it to objective guidelines. And that’s how we make sure the process is working".
“So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user?” Lofgren asked sarcastically.