It is a known fact that Google is said to be working on a censored search engine in China. Now according to a new report, the company has built a prototype of a censored search engine for China linking users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries. The search engine is codenamed Dragonfly.
It is designed for Android devices and would remove content deemed sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin.
Concerns from groups say that beyond the censorship, user data stored by Google on the Chinese mainland could be accessible to Chinese authorities, who routinely target political activists and journalists. The search engine would be operated as part of a “joint venture” partnership with a company based in mainland China. Furthermore, the venture would have the ability to update the search term blacklists. This raises new questions about whether Google executives in the U.S. would be able to maintain effective control and oversight over the censorship.
That doesn’t end here, a list of seven employees said to have quit their jobs at Google over a lack of corporate transparency is circulating within the company’s ranks. This sudden departure follows the controversial revelation of Google’s work on Project Dragonfly. Employees shared the list of names on an email list dedicated to discussions of ethics and transparency issues at Google.
This group of software engineers weighs experience at Google between one and 11 years. One of the names on the list is that of former Google senior scientist Jack Poulson, who worked for the company in Toronto before resigning over Dragonfly last month. A spokesperson for Google said, “It is our policy to not comment on individual employees.” The revelation of Dragonfly provoked an immediate backlash within the company.
In a statement, Jack Poulson said:
I’m offended that no weight has been given to the human rights community having a consensus,” he said. “If you have coalition letter from 14 human rights organizations, and that can’t even make it into the discussions on the ethics behind a decision, I’d rather stand with the human rights organizations in this dispute.