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It looks like Google’s controversial Dragonfly project has been binned

GOOGLE HAS REPORTEDLY scrapped plans for a censored Chinese search engine, following evidence that people have all the feels about it, and not in a good way.

Project Dragonfly, as the initiative was codenamed, was to be Google’s path back into the Chinese market it abandoned in 2010, before being formally blocked by the Chinese “great firewall”.

It involved Googlers harvesting data to create blacklists which would block out what The Intercept describes as results pertaining to “democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest”.

But with staff protesting and even leaving the company in light of the news, it now appears that Dragonfly is dead, and without it, there’s little chance of Google being able to get a Chinese product approved.

The report suggests that Google has been using a well-known URL which it happens to own – 265.com – to gather information through market research and then pass the info straight to Chinese state-connected search giant Baidu. Google’s own privacy team are understood not to have been informed of what was going on.

Commenting on the news, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said: “Media reports that Google is shelving Dragonfly follow intense criticism of the project from human rights groups and Google’s own staff. We would welcome a decision by Google to drop Dragonfly and abandon its plans to cooperate in large-scale censorship and surveillance by the Chinese government.

“Going ahead with Project Dragonfly would represent a massive capitulation on human rights by one of the world’s most powerful companies.”

Googlers involved have now been told that they are not to use the 265.com data – effectively killing off Project Dragonfly.

“It’s worrying that these reports suggest that Project Dragonfly has been shelved due to discrepancies over internal process, rather than over human rights concerns. As Amnesty International and others set out in a letter to Sundar Pichai last week, threats to the rights to freedom of expression and privacy for millions of people in China should have never seen this project come into being.

We once again call on Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai to clear up any speculation and publicly state that his company will refrain from developing censored search products and drop Dragonfly with immediate effect.”

It is understood that the Dragonfly team are now working on other difficult, but marginally less contentious markets like… erm… Russia. μ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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