Pichai was speaking on Monday at Wired Magazine’s 25th anniversary summit here in the US.
Since China is an important market, Google is developing a censored search-engine for Beijing codenamed “Dragonfly” that would filter content deemed sensitive by its ruling Communist Party regime.
“We wanted to learn what it would look like if Google were in China. It’s very early and we don’t know whether we would or could do this in China but we felt like it was important for us to explore, given how important the market is and how many users there are,” The Verge quoted Pichai as saying.
Information regarding Google’s “Dragonfly” project began surfacing in August and since then the company has faced severe backlash from its employees as well as the US government.
Google’s plan to launch the censored browser has come under heavy criticism from one of its former Asia-Pacific head of free expression who called it a “stupid move”.
In September, Google reportedly developed a prototype of “Dragonfly” that linked users’ search history to their personal phone numbers allowing security agencies to easily track users seeking out information banned by the government.
Along with former Google Senior Scientist Jack Poulson, several other employees have resigned from the company citing lack of corporate transparency after the it revealed its efforts about “Dragonfly”.
The company has been guarding the China-project details from the US Congress.
Appearing before members of the US Congress at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in September end, Google’s Chief Privacy Officer, Keith Enright confirmed that the China search project does exist, but did not disclose much.
President Donald Trump’s administration has also asked Google to shun the “Dragonfly” project.
Though Pichai describes his company’s China plans as very preliminary, it is clear that backlash within and outside the company has been vocal and will only intensify in future, the report added.
Google had launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites.