US: Google CEO Sundar Pichai was interrogated by the House Judiciary Committee over potential bias in the search results it provides users.
Republican House members – including Rep. Lamar Smith (TX) – didn’t hold back on the topic of conservative bias.
“It will require a herculean effort by the chief executive and senior management to change the political bias now programmed into the company’s culture,” Smith said, citing “irrefutable” studies on the subject. “Google could well elect the next president with dire implications to our democracy.”
Pichai responded: “With respect… we don’t agree with the methodology [of the studies].”
Gabriel Weinberg, co-founder and CEO DuckDuckGo – a privacy-focused search engine company that competes with Google Search was watching this whole interrogation stated “What [our study] does reveal, or at least suggests, is that Google’s collection and use of personal data, including location, which is then used to filter specific search results, is having an effect akin to the effects of a political bias.”
Essentially, Weinberg is holding a view that even if Google does not create its products with the intent of having a political bias, the fact that location information is used to filter results creates its own form of bias.
“If you live in this ZIP code, we’re going to show you the NRA. But if you live in this other ZIP code, we’re not going to show you the NRA,” Weinberg says could explain the results his team discovered. “If that’s what [Google’s] doing, then you’re putting a whole ZIP code (or whatever the location boundaries) in a filter bubble.”
However, a Google spokesperson denied the results of DuckDuckGo’s study and said: “This study’s methodology and conclusions are flawed since they are based on the assumption that any difference in search results are based on personalization. That is simply not true. In fact, there are a number of factors that can lead to slight differences, including time and location, which this study doesn’t appear to have controlled for effectively.”
Replying to that Weinberg stated that even if Google finds his study wrong he hopes it will at least inspires others – especially academics – to dig into the issue further.