- Google CEO Sundar Pichai says it’s a ‘natural time’ for big tech to be scrutinized, but that it shouldn’t ‘get carried away’ with taking over the role of government and health organizations.
- In a new interview with Time magazine, Pichai also suggested that working from home may become more normal after the pandemic. ‘I think we can come up with better solutions.’
- He also addressed how Google is tackling misinformation at this time, although its efforts have been uneven.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Sundar Pichai has discussed Google’s and Alphabet’s role in tackling the pandemic in a wide-ranging interview, calling it a “natural moment in time” for large tech companies to be scrutinized.
But the CEO said tech companies shouldn’t “get carried away” with taking over the role from governments and public-health organizations.
Speaking to TIME, Pichai, who is chief of both Google and Alphabet, offered his own perspective on the current crisis, and how the world might look once the pandemic passes.
“I think technology and technology companies can play a significant role [in combatting COVID-19], and that’s the role we’re looking to play,” he said. “But I wouldn’t get carried away with it. The roles are very clear. It’s up to governments and public-health organizations [to lead the response to this crisis].”
Pichai also discussed how the coronavirus pandemic, which is keeping many people working from home, might change the way we work in the future.
“I think the reason we are able to work from home effectively is because we’ve done it face to face before,” he said. “We built a foundation. And we need that foundation on a continual basis. I think it’s part of human nature. Having said that, can we do things more flexibly? Absolutely. When I look at the extent to which people commute and the toll it takes on their families and so on and so forth, I think we can come up with better solutions.”
He added that Alphabet has “several projects” underway to help people who don’t have access to the same at-home technology for working, including a partnership with T-Mobile to deliver Wi-Fi hotspots and Chromebooks to under-served . “And I think when the U.S. talks about infrastructure, there’s got to be a clear plan to provide both broadband and wireless connectivity to rural places and underserved communities.”
Pichai was also asked about the confusion that arose when President Trump said in a public statement that Google was working on a COVID-19 screening website. Reports claimed that Google was caught unaware by the President’s remarks. They later were found to be referring to a project from Google’s sister company Verily.
“We were already working on providing more information about COVID, including about screening and testing. So we took that as an opportunity to engage closely,” Pichai told Time, without elaborating further.
Pichai touched on the problem of tackling misinformation, which Google has been stepping up its efforts in as the pandemic has gone on. Google has been wrestling with people taking advantage of the crisis to sell price-gouged essential items like masks and hand sanitizers on the platform. Business Insider also discovered that YouTube advertisers were finding ways around the platform’s rules in order to capitalize on the pandemic.
“It’s a risk,” Pichai said, “but we are being more conservative, too, in the sense that, early on, we prioritized information on Google and YouTube from what we call authoritative sources: health organizations, journalistic organizations and so on.
“We did not allow ads related to the coronavirus for a while, because we weren’t sure of our ability to moderate the content. But as we were able to get into a better work-from-home process, we’ve been turning the dials up—which is important, by the way. You want to give more people a voice.”
Read the rest of the interview with Time magazine here.