Privacy Concerns ‘Effectively End’ Google’s China Project

Marcus Newton
December 21, 2018

The firm is believed to have shut down an internal data analysis system which was being used to develop the search engine, known as Dragonfly.

If Google actually releases a heavily-censored search engine in China, it would directly contribute to Chinese oppression - which actually contradicts Google's motto "Don't Be Evil".

The decision followed accounts that Google's privacy team had complained to executives when questionable data collection practices by some of the project's engineers were leaked to the press, leading to an internal rift within the Dragonfly development team.

Members of the Dragonfly team are said to have been using large data sets pulled from the Beijing-based website 265.com, which Google owns, to help build the censored search product. According to insiders, the privacy team was "really pissed".

Records show that 265.com is still hosted on Google servers, but its physical address is listed under the name of the "Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co.", which has an office space on the third floor of a tower building in northwest Beijing's Haidian district.

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One of the sources stated that "The 265 data was integral to Dragonfly, access to the data has been suspended now, which has stopped progress".

A former Google employee warned of the web giant's "disturbing" plans in a letter sent to the US's senate's commerce committee in August. Under company protocol, reviewing users search queries goes under a pretty tight review process, so that not just anyone can see what you have been searching. In exchange for grating Google access to the Chinese intranet market, search engine would be created to blacklist search results related to "democracy, human rights, and peaceful protect". For Google to operate in China, it will have to violate widely held global human rights standards.

Google launched a search engine in the authoritarian state in 2006, google.cn.

After severe backlash from Google employees, USA government officials, as well as human rights groups and NGOs, development of the Dragonfly project has effectively ceased, and the project has been shelved.

'Going ahead with Project Dragonfly would represent a massive capitulation on human rights by one of the world's most powerful companies. Back in November, reports surfaced that privacy and security employees that were working on Dragonfly were shut out of meetings. Pichai conceded that there was "no plans to launch a search service in China", though he had declined to provide a positive confirmation to the Congress' demand that Google should not launch "a tool for surveillance and censorship in China".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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