Open letter from Google employees calls for the cancelation of Project Dragonfly

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Back in August, we reported on Google’s Project Dragonfly — a censored search engine it is building for the Chinese government. The algorithms will exclude any website the communist state deems a threat. Anything pertaining to democracy, religion, human rights, protests, and more will be banned. For example, Wikipedia and the BBC’s website are already forbidden.

The project has stirred internal conflict within the company. Five employees have already quit in protest over the plan despite not knowing all of the details. Another 1,400 signed an internal letter demanding more information on the project, which was ignored.

On Tuesday, employees posted an open letter publicly on Medium demanding that the company cancel the project saying that it makes “Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.”

"Dragonfly would establish a dangerous precedent that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions"

As of this writing, only about 250 staff members have signed on, but the letter claims that thousands of Google employees are against Project Dragonfly.

“We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression and to use surveillance to repress dissent. 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.”

In October, US Vice President Mike Pence blasted Google over the project.

“[Google’s actions will] strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,” the VP said in a speech to the Hudson Institute.

While Google has not had much to say on the project, it has been widely reported that the Chinese search engine would also be capable of capturing personal information such as phone numbers. One can only presume that the communist regime would use that data to identify and punish dissidents based on their search history. It may even be wishing to integrated the search engine into its plans for a social scoring system.

Google has yet to respond to the new letter.

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m4a4

TS Evangelist
If China wants censorship they can build their own search engine. Google should not allow China to push their ideals on them. Now if Google was based in China, it would be different.
They're not "allowing" China to push their ideals on them, they're "allowing" China to buy a custom search engine (with the promise of revenue). It's all about the money.

But I'm glad that they're actually pushing for this to be shut down. Not that China can't make their own...
 
"Don't Be Evil." Hmmm, nah we can't use that one any more.
"Be less evil than the other guys." It's a bit better.
"We're totally less evil than Pol Pot." Well, it avoids Godwin's Law.
"We won't be particularly evil in Your country*" OK, that's approved by General Counsel.


* Deal not available in China
 
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Eldritch

TS Addict
We are not Evil but only helping a dictatorship. What they do with them is not our fault as we only gave them details of the searches made by our customers, their name and contact info to govt. If their life gets destroyed or even ended then its totally not our fault.

- Press release of Google /s
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
We are not Evil but only helping a dictatorship. What they do with them is not our fault as we only gave them details of the searches made by our customers, their name and contact info to govt. If their life gets destroyed or even ended then its totally not our fault.

- Press release of Google /s
So exactly like Wikileaks and the New York Times, then.
 
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wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
IMO, if these employees want gagme to listen to them, they are going go have to quit. More importantly, as I see it anyway, it should be the employees working on the project that should quit. Even then, gagme may not stop work on the project.
 

ET3D

TechSpot Paladin
“[Google’s actions will] strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,”
That would highly depend on how this compares to what Chinese people already use. If Chinese search engines (such as Baidu) already do what Dragonfly promises, then Dragonfly might not make much difference to censorship and privacy, while making users' live easier when it comes to searching. If Dragonfly does offer more to the Chinese government, then yes, that's a problem.
 

kapital98

TS Guru
Open letters are a pointless PR show. The employees tried an actual letter to management and failed. So they are taking it public and hoping bad PR will stop Google.

As for the search engine: This has been long known. Ultimately, China and Google can work together. Google makes money and china has a more effective way to suppress political dissent. Or, they can choose to not work together. China will still use censorship but it won't be as effective (most people in China use VPNs ---- but not everyone and these policies still matter).
 

petert

TS Evangelist
China has a search engine, it is called Baidu. Google is just greedy and wants a slice of the pie ... Speaking of, China is consistently pushing foreign companies out in favour of local ones. Skype was just pulled out - currently unusable in China - not sure what google thinks will achieve, will probably last only one or two years there. Just greediness tbh.