Why it matters: Google pulled its search product from the Chinese market in 2010 over human rights concerns but given how massive the market it, the company apparently feels it is too lucrative to stay away from. Sooner or later, however, Google will have to publicly address Dragonfly.
Reports surfaced in early August that Google was secretly working on a controversial search engine for the Chinese market. Dubbed Dragonfly, the project for Android devices was said to be a heavily censored search engine that blocks access to an array of forbidden topics such as religion, human rights and peaceful protests.
Dragonfly created quite the dust up, both among human rights groups and within Google’s walls. The Intercept said at least five employees quit over the matter and according to MIT Technology Review, 1,400 US Google employees have signed a letter demanding more information.
A recent report from The Intercept claims that Google has built a prototype version of Dragonfly that links a users’ search queries to their personal phone number, a move that would make it trivially easy for the Chinese government to monitor citizens’ web activities.
Sources also note that Dragonfly would allow the Chinese government to supply its own weather and air pollution data directly from an unnamed source in Beijing. The country has been known to provide inaccurate data about pollution in the past, raising concerns that Dragonfly could allow the government to provide false data to downplay air quality concerns.
It’s been roughly six weeks since the first news broke about Dragonfly and thus far, Google hasn’t publicly addressed the project.
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