Governments have no idea what to do about technology companies.


Google faces yet another clueless government hearing

Dragging the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world out to Washington indicates that the government means business, but as we've seen repeatedly this year, nobody knows what to do with technology companies.

Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, faced the The House Judiciary Committee this week over data collection practices and much more, but didn't really need to defend much at all because senators were more concerned with their own problems than real questioning.

Over the space of three hours, Pichai was pressed on legitimate topics, like what location data Google actually collects and why, to the absurd, such as questions about why Republican hate speech is labeled as hate speech on the search engine.

We got inklings of frustrations with the company: what is Google actually tracking? How can we be sure it's fair? What are you up to in China? Unfortunately, yet again, we're left with no actual answers.

The problem is how little has been achieved with these hearings, revealing the need for a better format in the future. Pichai was able to get away with dodging almost any question simply because he understands the technology well enough to side-step answering it, confounding senators in the process.

Here's an example: Pichai was asked a few times about location tracking and how consumers are essentially unaware it's happening. He was able to avoid detailing the specifics by just saying that users 'opt' to use location services when they use apps, but if correctly pressed I'd bet that the fact that a phone is almost useless without those services, which also happen to track location for advertising purposes,  would be a sticking point.

This year's series of big-technology hearings were interesting because it was rare for CEOs to be dragged in front of committees before now, but what's becoming apparent is how ill-equipped governments around the world are to deal with well-versed, tech-savvy CEOs at all.

Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey have all faced similar hearings this year, and despite their companies' respective scandals, monopolies or scale, essentially walked away unscathed. In some cases, the government in the U.S. has asked the companies how they'd like to be regulated, indicating they have no real clue where to start.

What's clear is technology companies are huge, and governments around the world are thinking about what they should to with the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and other giants, given their size.

The problem is that outside of the EU's pursuit of Google on antitrust violations, nobody really has any clue how to proceed, let alone how to get real answers out of these companies. Perhaps there's a better format, where a hearing includes technology-minded folks on the government side? Imagine!

Other notable news

Intel is back with a fight: it's totally changing how it builds new tech

📺 Facebook really wants to be the next place you watch HBO

🙈 Supermicro didn't find any evidence of Chinese spying, despite Bloomberg's repeated claims

📉 Robinhood touts banking products, then has to undo it just 24 hours later


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How I quit Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon

In a very topical long-read this week, a Motherboard writer tried to unplug from the 's big five technology companies entirely for a month. The writer needed to find a new laptop, email client, web hosting and so much more, which makes the results all the more fascinating: it was almost impossible.

🌎 How I Quit Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon (Motherboard)

Other good reads

Population mountains: a story about cities and perception (The Pudding)

Speak, memory (The Verge)

An open letter about algorithms and my son's birth (Twitter)

The rise of the recommendation site (Vox)


Refactoring UI

If you're anything like me and you can string a line of code together but can't really do product design to save yourself, this book is a godsend. Created for developers who want to do better at design, Refactoring UI is a book that came out of a series of tips for those that struggle to make beautiful things.

📚 Refactoring UI


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