Google’s Sundar Pichai Says Aadhaar Requires Checks and Balances


  • Data privacy is the foundation of Google’s products, says Pichai
  • He says Aadhaar has a lot of potential
  • He adds that you need a lot of checks and balances to make it work


Google’s apps are also seen as a way for the company to collect data about its users. With the ubiquity of Google’s services, it’s easy to believe that it knows when you eat, whatever you do, and what you like, but in an interview with NDTV last week, Pichai tried to dismiss the notion.

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“We actually don’t know all that! But yeah, the way I think about all that is first of all – [the] biggest risk for data for anyone is security,” he explains. “Getting compromised from a security aspect.. so just like your money is safer in the bank or something like that, we work so hard to build some of the most secure systems in the world.”

“So we work very hard to protect your data,” Pichai continues. “As a company, we realize every single day, you know, users will only use us [if] they trust us as an institution. So, you know, [data privacy] is at the foundation of everything we do. Whenever we build anything new… we start with how to do we, in a foundational way, secure and the data give users privacy… on top of that, we do everything else.”

This has parallels to how people see another central repository of information – the Aadhaar, India’s project that aims to give every citizen a unique identification number. It’s something that Pichai sees a lot of potential in, though he agrees that there is a need for checks and balances.

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“You know I can see all the benefits that would come from a system like that – Aadhaar – but I think it is important because it has a, you know, centralized aspect to it,” says Pichai. “You have to put the right checks and balances in the system.”

“It is no different from the constitution, democracy, and the court system,” he says. “You have to have equivalent in a system like Aadhaar to say, with the power comes great responsibility and you know what are the checks and balances in the system.”

However, Pichai is quick to admit that he doesn’t know enough about the system, but adds that anytime you are using your identity, there are privacy risks involved, no matter the system. “I am not fully familiar with it [Aadhaar] you know, I think in a lot of these cases you have to generate benefits for the users. You have to show it with a benefit,” says Pichai.

“So tomorrow when I go get a driver’s license, I am giving up some privacy. I do it because I can drive and I see the benefits of it. So for Aadhaar, you have to show use cases at the top of it. Why that collective benefit and the good that comes out of it far outweighs the privacy you give up for it, and then you have to put checks and balances to make sure it works well.”

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