Google might have just confirmed that its censored Chinese search engine exists
Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Google is building a censored search engine for China. Now for the first time, the company has admitted the existence of Project Dragonfly -- reportedly the codename for Google’s China project.
In a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers took turns to grill executives from Google and other tech companies about issues ranging from data privacy to consumer protection.
Google’s chief privacy officer Keith Enright confirmed that “There is a Project Dragonfly.” But he didn’t elaborate on what the project entails, saying he wasn’t clear on what’s in or outside its scope.
When pressed about Google’s plan in China, Enright maintained that his company isn’t close to launching any search product. He added that any Google product launch anywhere would reflect the company’s values and commitment to users.
Leaked documents seen by The Intercept last month indicated that Google is planning a new search engine in China that would filter out blacklisted websites and block sensitive enquiries. Codenamed Dragonfly, the search app would reportedly link to a user’s phone number, making it possible to track searches by individuals.
The revelation sparked protests from some Google employees, concerned about the implications for human rights and censorship.
It comes eight years after Google pulled its search engine from mainland China, following what it said was a cyber attack targeting Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. With a few exceptions, most Google services have since been blocked in the country.
But there are increasing signs that Google is seeking a comeback in the world’s largest internet market. In July, it launched a drawing game on WeChat. A month later, its sister company Waymo set up a subsidiary focusing on self-driving cars in Shanghai.