Google managed to dodge a highly anticipated hearing in Washington D.C. today. By doing so, the company avoided facing questions security and privacy concerns. However, while Google received a reprieve, the company could face more problems from D.C. lawmakers later.
Google was part of a trio of tech giants (alongside Twitter and Facebook) called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The companies face questions about how they handle privacy and prevent hateful content on their social media platforms.
Facebook and Twitter were in attendance today, represented by Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook's COO) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO). However, Google did not show up to the meeting, because Alphabet (Google parent company) CEO Larry Page and Google CEO Sundar Pichai declined the invitation.
While there was no obligation for Google to attend, the consequences could be problematic for the company. If Congress decides to call the company back, and maybe more forcibly, Google would be forced to send a top-level executive.
Google has not spoke about its absence, but the company will need to face the proverbial music sooner or later. Scrutiny is increasing as regulators seek assurances from tech companies in the wake of data breaches, privacy concerns, online hate speech, and election tampering.
While the US government has not yet been really tough on Google, the company will want to avoid problems like it has faced in Europe. Back in July, the company was handed a record fine from the European Commission. It was the second record fine from the regulator for Google in as many years.
The European Commission says the fine regards three restrictions Google placed on Android device OEMs. Under European laws the restrictions break antitrust regulations.
Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, said the company is monopolizing search:
“Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine. In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine.”