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China: Google shuts down ‘censored’ search project

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Google has reportedly shut down a data collection system that was key to develop the search project code-named ‘Dragonfly’, after facing widespread criticism over its ‘censored’ Search engine for the Chinese market.

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As reported in The Intercept on Tuesday, the move is initiated after hundreds of Google employees raised internal complaints that the project had been kept secret from them.

According to the report, Google employees, working on the Dragonfly project, ‘had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine’.

In 2008, Google had bought the website www.265.com, that is a Chinese-language web directory service, from a billionaire Chinese entrepreneur.

The report added, “265.com provides its Chinese visitors with news updates, information about financial markets, horoscopes, and advertisements for cheap flights and hotels.”

It further stated, “As The Intercept reported in August, it appears that Google has used 265.com as a honeypot for market research, storing information about Chinese users’ searches before sending them along to Baidu.”

Apparently, Google engineers working on Dragonfly had obtained large datasets showing queries that Chinese people were entering into the 265.com search engine.

Quoting some unnamed sourced, the reported said, “Members of Google’s privacy team, however, were kept in the dark about the use of 265.com.”

Also mentioned in the report that the teams working on Dragonfly are no longer gathering search queries from mainland China.

The report further claimed, “Significantly, several groups of engineers have now been moved off of Dragonfly completely, and told to shift their attention away from China to instead work on projects related to India, Indonesia, Russia, the Middle East and Brazil.”

Tech giant Google was yet to issue a statement or comment on the report.

Recently, CEO of Google- Sundar Pichai told a US House Judiciary Committee that the company had ‘no plans’ to launch a search product in China.

In an open letter to the company, in November this year, Google employees had written that their, “Opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be.”

The letter also read, “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.”

Earlier, Google had launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites.

Also read:  Twitter warns of unusual activity from China, Saudi Arabia

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