A hot potato: After having an internal letter signed by 1,400 employees ignored, Google staff members took to the internet to publicly protest Project Dragonfly. The job is being carried out in cooperation with the Chinese government, which looks to censor internet searches and collect personally identifiable information. A new open letter demands the project's closure.
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.