Why it matters: Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, has called on the CIA and FBI to investigate Google for its “seemingly treasonous” decision to allegedly work with the Chinese military and not with the US military.
As reported by Axios, Thiel made his comments at the National Conservatism conference in Washington on Sunday. He asked if Google’s senior management considered the company “to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence.”
“Is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military... because they are making the sort of bad, short-term rationalistic [decision] that if the technology doesn't go out the front door, it gets stolen out the backdoor anyway?"
Thiel added that the CIA and FBI should question Google over its alleged ties to the Chinese military “in a not excessively gentle manner."
While there is no evidence linking Google to Chinese Intelligence, the company faced criticism last year for Project Dragonfly— a censored search engine it was building for the Chinese government. The news was certainly controversial—even the company’s own employees called for it to be canceled—and it was reportedly shut down in December.
Thiel was also referencing Google’s decision not to renew its contract with the Pentagon. It had provided AI and machine learning algorithms capable of object recognition for Project Maven, which used Google's tools to trawl through thousands of hours of drone footage.
Unless Thiel has evidence, it's completely irresponsible to suggest a company has been "infiltrated" by foreign spies. https://t.co/obmpojiLAz— Shira Ovide (@ShiraOvide) July 15, 2019
Thiel, who is one of the few big names in Silicon Valley to publicly support Donald Trump, was slammed by Bloomberg columnist Shira Ovide for his “irresponsible” comments. But his Palantir co-founder, Joe Lonsdale, defended him.
“Everyone in the Valley knows that the Chinese government is very involved [with Google]” Lonsdale told CNBC. “It’s something we don’t talk about a lot. It was very courageous of (Thiel) to talk about it.”