Googles Beijing office (Photo: bfishadow on Flickr)

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UPDATE: Code name Dragonfly will record users phone numbers

Connor James Ibbetson, Editor-at-large
@connoribbetson

Googles new Chinese search engine will record your phone number and searches

At the start of August we reported on rumours of a new development by Google, code named Dragonfly.

The project was a new search engine for the Chinese market, but built with consultation of the Chinese Government to incorporate government censorship.

Now, according to information given to The Intercept, the search engine would tie users phone numbers to the searches they make through the platform.

This would make it very easy for the government in China to track citizens and their internet searches. This has troubled many in the human rights circles, including Human Rights Watch.

Speaking to The Intercept, Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher with Human Rights Watch said that “This is very problematic from a privacy point of view, because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people’s behaviour,”

“Linking searches to a phone number would make it much harder for people to avoid the kind of overreaching government surveillance that is pervasive in China.”

The internal reaction at Google has not been positive since the existence of the project was leaked.

CNET has reported that 1,000 employees are protesting the development, and some are quitting the internet giant all together.

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Google’s anti censorship stance is questioned as new app conforms to Chinese content limits.

Google is developing a version of its search engine that conforms with Xi Jinping’s Communist Party censorship policies, it has been revealed.

The move comes eight years after Google closed its operations in the country because of concerns it had over censorship and ‘online hacking’.

Google started directing traffic from the Chinese mainland via its Hong Kong service – which was completely uncensored. A State Council Information Office spokesman described Google’s move as “totally wrong” in an interview with the state-controlled Xinhua news agency.

Now, eight years on, the internet giant is reportedly developing a version of its search engine that will filter out search queries and words that have been blacklisted by the Chinese authorities.

A leak from inside Google.

According to the source, which comes from Google itself and wants to remain anonymous – Google has teams of engineers developing a search app that conforms to the content restrictions imposed by Beijing.

The app, code named ‘Dragonfly’ will reportedly filter content relating to ‘human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest’.

The source, speaking to The Intercept, said that the app had been demonstrated to officials in the Chinese government.

However, this does not mean the service will see the light of day. Google has been known to develop services that never become available.

The source also stated in The Intercept that ‘talks were not going well [with the Chinese Government]’.

The move represents a shift in the companies policy, considering their opposition to censorship in 2010.

In 2010, Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin, stated in an interview with the Guardian that being born in the Soviet Union during the 1970’s was in part responsible for his opposition to censorship.

Western tech companies have played ball with Chinese censorship policies before.

Google is not alone in this censored experiment. Professional networking site LinkedIn also filters content for the Chinese market, and Facebook developed software that prevented certain posts from showing on their site (however this was never released or used).

Currently, most of Google’s services, such as YouTube, remain blocked by the so called ‘Great Firewall’ that filters the nations internet access. Despite this, in 2017 Google opened a research centre in the country focused on AI.

The Californian tech giant currently has more than 700 employees in mainland China.

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