Google official denies allegations of ties to China

Google official denies allegations of ties to China
© Getty Images

A Google executive on Tuesday denied allegations that the company works with the Chinese military, one day after President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE said that his administration would investigate claims of improper ties between China and Google. 

Karan Bhatia, Google's vice president of global government affairs and public policy, emphasized during a Senate hearing that Google has little business in China and denied the company has any ties to its military.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Bhatia if Google has found "any evidence of infiltration of your management or your private data by Chinese intelligence."

"Absolutely not, senator," Bhatia said.

He said the company has never consulted with China about any of Google's contracts with the U.S. government and denied allegations that it has turned a blind eye to a leak of its "private data" to Chinese intelligence.

"Absolutely not," Bhatia maintained. "We take extremely seriously the threat of any penetration of our systems."

Bhatia testified before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders top target at CPAC Bloomberg campaign manager says they have considered naming running mate during primaries The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' MORE (R-Texas), which centered mostly around allegations that Google routinely censors conservative voices.

The allegations about ties between Google and China surfaced this week after Peter Thiel, a prominent conservative and Trump adviser who sits on Facebook's board, said the government should open investigations into Google's relationship with the Chinese military.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyThe dangers of tech company ethics There's no election law about social media disclosures — but there oughta be Agencies play catch-up over security concerns with TikTok MORE (Mo.), a prominent Republican tech critic, during the Tuesday hearing also pressed Bhatia over Google's controversial Project Dragonfly, a search engine the company was creating for China that was going to abide by some of the Chinese government's censorship demands.

Bhatia told Hawley the project had been "terminated."

Google shut down its censored Chinese search engine in 2010 amid enormous pressure to stop doing business in the authoritarian country. Then, last year, the company faced widespread protests over Project Dragonfly, which critics said could have aided China in its state surveillance efforts, including the targeting of minorities, human rights advocates and students.

The plans for Project Dragonfly were derided by a variety of internal and external figures, including Vice President Pence.

"We have no current plans to go into the Chinese search market," Bhatia said, but he declined to pledge that Google never would.

"What we’re willing to commit to ... is that any decisions, or effort to go back into the Chinese search market, we would take only in consultation with stakeholders," Bhatia said.