Google CEO Sundar Pichai will make a rare visit to Capitol Hill next Tuesday to address allegations of bias on the tech giant’s search platform, tackling one of the biggest challenges the Alphabet-owned company has faced since he assumed the role in October 2015.
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A native of Chennai, India, Pichai grew up alongside his family in a two-room apartment, without a television or car. His family did not own a telephone until Pichai was 12. He went on to study metallurgical engineers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, ultimately earning an initiation to study materials science at Stanford University in California, The Guardian reported.
“I didn’t understand the internet,” Pichai told The Guardian about his early experiences in America. “The change was too much for me. I think I was a little lost. But I felt the Valley was a special place. People would take me seriously for my ideas, not because of who I was or where I came from. It’s the remarkable thing about America we take for granted: that I could come and, after day one, my opinions mattered.”
After a brief stint at consulting firm McKinsey, Pichai first joined Google in 2004. He quickly rose through the ranks, playing a key role in the development of Google’s web browser, Chrome, the file storage platform Google Drive and the email service Gmail. When Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page restructured the company under the Alphabet umbrella in 2015, Pichai became CEO of the Google segment. An avid sports fan, Pichai is married and has two young children.
Alphabet shares have advanced more than 40 percent since October 2015 amid massive gains in Google’s digital advertising business. However, the company’s practices have come under considerable scrutiny since the 2016 election cycle amid allegations of political bias.
President Trump has personally accused Google of exhibiting bias in its search algorithm, prioritizing progressive news sources while censoring conservative voices. He also accused Google of failing to promote his State of the Union address on its homepage. Google has denied that its platform engages in political bias.
Pichai was initially scheduled to answer questions from the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. However, the session was postponed after the death of former President George H.W. Bush.
Google executives had declined to attend earlier Congressional hearings on Capitol Hill, drawing the ire of conservative lawmakers.