Google CEO has to tell Congressman who makes the iPhone

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Google hearing 2
The iPhone: not made by Google.
Photo: C-Span

This year’s Facebook congressional hearing highlighted just how little many lawmakers know about the technology which dominates our lives.

That seemingly didn’t change during yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with Google CEO Sundar Pichai. At one point in proceedings 69-year-old Republican Congressman Steve King expressed his disappointment to Pichai that his 7-year-old daughter had been shown a photo of her grandfather with some unflattering language on her iPhone.

“Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company,” Pichai said.

Sundar Pichai’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee was intended to discuss a number of issues. These include privacy, the ethics of data collection, and allegations of bias against conservative materials.

To be fair to Steve King, after Pichai’s comment, he did backtrack and say that the phone may have been an Android, rather than his earlier stated assertion that it was an iPhone. “It might have been an Android,” he said.

It’s also worth noting that, while Android and iOS are obviously separate operating systems, Google does provide search functionality on the iPhone. Had this point been more artfully raised, it could therefore have not looked like quite the blunder it was.

As it is, however, it was another frustrating reminder of how little lawmakers can frequently appear to understand about the technology they’re meant to be overseeing. That’s fine if there’s not going to be any kind of regulation put in place.

But if decisions about this technology winds up making its way into law, you’d hope that Congress would at least appreciate the difference between products made by two of America’s biggest tech giants.