Wednesday 22 January 2020 12:25 pm

Privacy ‘cannot be a luxury good’, says Google boss Sundar Pichai

Privacy “cannot be a luxury good”, Google’s chief executive said today, while vowing his company would protect its users’ information.

Sundar Pichai, who also leads parent company Alphabet, said privacy was “at the heart of what we do”.

“Users come to Google at very important moments, ask us questions, we deal with people’s sensitive information in Gmail, Google Photos and so on, and so we have to earn their trust,” he said during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Picahi pointed to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which he described as a “great template” that could provide a framework for other countries.

He added that artificial intelligence (AI) could help to improve privacy, as it would allow the company to use less data over time.

Picahi, who took over the top role at Alphabet after founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down last month, argued that healthcare offered the biggest potential for AI over the next decade.

US politicians have raised concerns about Google’s access to the health records of tens of millions of Americans. Healthcare giant Ascension, which operates 150 hospitals across the US, is the company’s biggest cloud computer customer in the sector.

But Pichai insisted any data linked to the hospitals was owned by those institutions, not Google.

“But look at the potential here. Cancer is often missed and the difference in outcome is profound,” he said. 

“In lung cancer, for example, five experts agree this way and five agree the other way. We know we can use artificial intelligence to make it better.”

The EU is currently drawing up proposals on AI regulation, and Pichai called for a “common framework” to ensure the technology is used responsibly. 

Yesterday the tech boss backed a temporary EU ban on facial recognition technology to give authorities time to work out how to prevent abuses.