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Earnings Are Up At Google's Parent Company But So Is Spending

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reported more than $30 billion in revenue last quarter that beat Wall Street expectations. Like Facebook, Google is making a lot of money, regardless of criticism over its privacy policies and its role as a conduit for false information. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: It's hard to avoid Google if you're looking for anything on the Web. It's a hub for advertisers to reach consumers. Well, revenue for the holiday quarter was up 22 percent over last year for Alphabet, its parent company, and most of that money came from ads. But Google has also been in the crosshairs of consumer and legislative anger over fake news and privacy breaches. In October and December, Google announced that the user data of millions of people had been exposed. In December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was grilled by Congress on these issues. Last month, Google was fined some $57 million in France for violations of European privacy laws. During the earnings call yesterday, Pichai stressed Google's growing commitment to user protection.

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SUNDAR PICHAI: We feel a deep sense of responsibility to do the right thing and are continuing to build privacy and security into the core of our products, keeping users' data safe and secure with the industry's best security systems, and giving people better and clearer controls.

SYDELL: Pichai promised that new features would be rolled out in the coming year to safeguard data, though he didn't offer any details. But analysts weren't totally satisfied with Alphabet's results. The company is spending more. One area in particular is cloud computing. It's been trailing both Amazon and Microsoft, and now it's spending to catch up. Still, in many ways, Alphabet is a bellwether company for the health of the tech industry. Its largely positive results indicate that angry lawmakers and users haven't hurt the bottom line. Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.