“We have gone through similar situations in Europe, so it’s not a surprise to us,” Pichai said in a wide-ranging interview with CNN Business’ Poppy Harlow, marking his first extensive comments since news broke in recent weeks of federal and Congressional probes into the market dominance of Google and several of its peers. “For some of the other companies, maybe the scrutiny is newer.”
That scrutiny has forced Google to rethink strategies, including potential acquisitions. Pichai told CNN Business “there have been times” that Google has looked at an acquisition and determined it may not be possible because of concerns about “too much concentration in a sector.”
Pichai said it’s “perfectly fine” for companies like Google to be scrutinized when they get big enough. “Scrutiny is right, and we will participate constructively in these discussions,” he said.
But he also stressed that “scale does offer many benefits.” Pichai noted that it’s Google’s size that allows it to invest in future technologies five to 10 years out without worrying about “short-term profits.” Perhaps for that reason, he said it’s bigger tech companies that are investing heavily in areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
“There are many countries around the world which aspire to be the next Silicon Valley, and they are supporting their companies too. So we have to balance both,” he said. “This doesn’t mean you don’t scrutinize large companies, but you have to balance it with the fact that you want big, successful companies as well.”
In an aggressive plan released in March, Warren said she would appoint regulators to “unwind anti-competitive mergers,” including Google’s purchases of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick, an online advertising company it acquired in 2007.
“I think there needs to be healthy debate,” Pichai said when asked about Senator Warren’s rhetoric. “Any campaign has moments around that, but what matters to me is the healthy thoughtful conversations around it.”
Pichai also raised concerns about the fallout of knee-jerk regulation of the technology industry.
“I worry that if you regulate for the sake of regulating it, it has a lot of unintended consequences,” he said, focusing on the issue of artificial intelligence in particular. “It will have implications for our national security and … for other important areas of society. Having leadership ends up being really critical.”