Google says it left the Chinese market in 2010 – but the tech giant's apparent recent cozying up to the country is making waves back in the US.
All the way to the White House, in fact, where President Donald Trump has said he would recommend the authorities look into whether the company's behavior has been “treasonous.”
The accusation came from Peter Thiel, a billionaire tech investor and Trump supporter, who on Monday told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Google was refusing to work with the US military – a reference to the company dropping its participation in Pentagon's artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Project Maven.
But at the same time, Thiel charged during the interview, Google was not opposed to “working with the Communist Chinese government.”
Google has in the meantime reacted to the accusations by denying them without going into much detail, and by repeating that it was not involved in projects with “the Chinese military” – even though Thiel in his remarks mentioned the Chinese government.
However, when he was on Sunday addressing the National Conservatism Conference, Thiel asked whether Google was infiltrated by foreign intelligence agencies, including Chinese, and wondered if that was for that reason why Google has seemingly decided “to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military.”
He at the same time invited the FBI and the CIA to ask Google the same questions.
Now Trump is not convinced that all was above board in this case, as he took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to praise Thiel, whom he referred to as “a great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House later the same day, the president promised that the billionaire's allegations would be looked at by federal agencies, perhaps even by the Department of Justice, and added:
“I know that our other agencies will be looking at it and we'll see if there's any truth to it.”
A big data mining company Thiel co-founded, Palantir, has recently come under criticism for cooperating with US immigration authorities, with some 500 Amazon employees asking the giant to stop providing Palantir with cloud storage.
When Google last year stopped its participation in Pentagon's Project Maven, the decision came as a result of protests staged by its employees.