After a number of criticism and internal complaints, Google has shut down a data collection system that had been key in ‘Project Dragonfly.’
This was the code name given to the censored search engine Google was developing for mainland China. Back in August, nearly 1400 out of over 88 000 Google employees signed a letter to the executives. And that was asking for more details and transparency on the project and more employee input in decisions about the work Google takes on. The main concern of them was how through Dragonfly, Google was violating its own ethical principles because it was leaked that the search platform was being designed so that the internet users from China could be blocked from content that the government of China has blacklisted. Content that discussed issues like human rights and democracy.
And this didn’t happen to be the first project Google took on which was protested by its employees. Especially its contract nicknamed ‘Project Maven,’ with the Pentagon to develop a technology for use in drone warfare. It utilized AI and facial recognition to analyze drone video footage to identify human targets, and this June, Google said that it would not renew the contract.
Pulling the Plug
It was revealed that Google had been using a Beijing-based website www.265.com to develop blacklists for the search engine, which was bought in 2008 from a Chinese entrepreneur. Google engineers had obtained large datasets of queries Chinese people were entering into the 265.com search engine and the Google’s privacy team had not known anything about the use of the website.
Reportedly, now several groups of engineers had been moved off of Dragonfly to focus on other projects.
Google launched a search engine for China in 2006, but had to discontinue it too in 2010 because of the Chinese government efforts to block some web content from internet users and limit their free speech on the web. But the new search engine that Google attempted to create was engineered to be nothing but on par with those same government regulations.
In the open letter that was written by Google employees to the company, it was mentioned that they “object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable,” and “Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries’ similar concessions.”