Interview with Google-CEO : Do we have to be afraid of Google, Mr. Pichai?

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the opening day of a new Berlin office of Google in Berlin. Bild: AFP

Google-CEO Sundar Pichai talks about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence, the chances of minimizing data and the beauty of his simple life in India.

          7 Min.

          Mr. Pichai, Google is collecting huge amounts of data and analyzes the information in ways the users don’t understand. Do we have to be afraid of Google?

          Patrick Bernau
          Verantwortlicher Redakteur für Wirtschaft und „Wert“ der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung.
          Corinna Budras
          Wirtschaftskorrespondentin in Berlin.

          We take our role in handling information seriously. We think that the data belongs to our users and that we are stewards of it. You are right that users might find it hard to understand, because honestly, there is a lot of complexity. People are increasingly living a digital life. So one of the challenges for us is: How can we make it even simpler for users to make the choices they want? We always try to evolve to stay ahead of user expectations. So for example, we ask ourselves: can we minimize data being used? Most of the data we collect today  we use to improve the products for users. We make most of our money from search ads, but the data we need to value advertising is actually much, much smaller than the data we need to make your experience better.

          What do you need the data for?

          There are many examples, one of the most popular features is when we tell people: You need to leave 20 Minutes early because there is more traffic and you need to go to your next meeting. People want us to be more helpful, and we can be more helpful if we understand the context of your query better. We are trying to make sure that data belongs to the user. If you ever want to delete your account we should be able to delete it. We want to try and make it easy for you to take your data and go to another service and we want to be transparent about it. But we need to work hard to simplify it even more. For example, we are storing your Gmail – just for you. We’re storing your photos – just for you.

          Google is not only storing our Gmail content, you also read the mails.

          We do not use the information contained in your emails. Our automated systems scan it for spam, but we don’t take data from your Gmail account and use it anywhere for advertising any more. We use Gmail data to remind you about an upcoming flight or travel for instance.

          There are a lot of demands to reduce the collection of data right from the start.

          This is the direction in which you will see us go. For example, as some of our machine learning chips on the phone get better, we can run more on the device and need to send less information in the cloud. When we warn you in Chrome about bad sites, we do it locally. We send a list of bad sites to your device instead of sending the sites that you visit to the cloud.

          Still, the Data Protection Agency in France just imposed a record fine of 50 Million Euros on you for data protection infringements.

          We have been very supportive of the European Data Protection Regulation. In fact, we had hundreds of people working for many months prior to its implementation to get us ready. In this case, we think we've built a consent process for personalized ads that is as transparent and straightforward as possible. We built it based on the guidance given by regulators, and on a lot of user experience testing we did ourselves. So we're appealing the decision.

          Google has decided to put AI first in all of its inventions. How can you make sure that computers decide in a way that humans want them to decide?

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