Washington, DC —
Google CEO Sundar Pichai came under fire from US antitrust prosecutors Monday as he rejected accusations that his company acted illegally to maintain its dominance as the world’s leading search engine.
At the heart of the case brought by the US Department of Justice is Google’s massive revenue sharing deal, under which iPhone maker Apple receives a large share of Google’s advertising revenue generated by making Google the default search engine on Apple devices.
Through court testimony, it was revealed that last year alone Google spent $26 billion (around Rp. 412 trillion) to remain the default search engine on various smartphone devices and browsers, the majority of which was given to Apple.
Pichai began his testimony in court in Washington City by restating his company’s mission to make information “universally accessible and useful” for all.
“This mission is becoming more enduring and more relevant than ever,” Pichai said, considering new search engine competitors and advances in artificial intelligence technology.
However, during the two-hour witness examination, US prosecutors tried to refute this claim.
Using emails, text conversations and company letters that are sometimes twenty years old, the US government wants to encourage Pichai to admit that Google’s native search engine agreement with Apple is important to his business.
In a tense interaction, prosecutors showed Pichai an internal memo in which Google expressed concerns that search activity on Apple devices was being “cannibalized” by the iPhone’s Siri feature.
In 2019, Pichai explained to Apple CEO Tim Cook that the phenomenon could be the cause of Apple receiving less than expected revenue from Google search activity results the previous year and that it could be corrected.
“Our vision is that we work as one company” when it comes to search activities, the memo said, summarizing another high-level meeting between the two companies in 2018.
When shown the internal memo, Pichai insisted that the two tech giants were “competing fiercely on many products,” adding that “there was probably a kind of irrational excitement about how well the meeting went.”
Pichai was also questioned about the company’s text chat, where he asked that the chat mode be changed to “history off” so that the contents of the chat were automatically deleted after 24 hours.
The use of this feature also raised US prosecutors’ suspicions that Pichai was trying to prevent the content of incriminating conversations from being used as evidence. (rd/lt)