Google employees are protesting against search engine censorship

Sundar Pichai

In the letter, a large group of Googlers publicly align themselves with organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which have also urged the Mountain View, Calif. -based company to reconsider its plans to develop a censored search engine for China's 800 million-plus internet users.

We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google's effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.

Further to their point, the Intercept reported Thursday that Google excluded privacy and security teams from involvement with the project, with former Google security engineer Yonatan Zunger telling the site that one of the project's central figures Scott Beaumont "did not feel that the security, privacy, and legal teams should be able to question his product decisions, and maintained an openly adversarial relationship with them - quite outside the Google norm". The leadership who pushed for Dragonfly - including Mr. Beaumont - is said to have acknowledged those concerns superficially but deemed them not important enough to warrant canceling the project or even significantly altering its course.

According to The Intercept, internal knowledge of the project was extremely limited, and some members of the Dragonfly team were threatened with firing if they failed to follow strict confidentiality rules. But as details of it have leaked since August, current and former employees, human rights activists and U.S. lawmakers have criticized Google for not taking a harder line against the Chinese government's policy that politically sensitive results be blocked.

Google was not immediately available for comment. Last October, however, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at a Wired conference in San Francisco that his company was at "very early" stages of development and portrayed it as an experimental project.

United States senators are calling for more information on the project Dragonfly, calling it "deeply troubling" as Vice President Mike Pence has called for an immediate end to the platform's development. "Privacy reviews at Google are non-negotiable and we never short circuit the process". "This story does not represent my experience working on security & privacy for Dragonfly, which were positive and thoughtful", tweeted Heather Adkins, director of security and privacy at Google. "I saw no sidelining whatsoever".

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The report details the extraordinary steps Google took to keep the project under wraps, going well beyond the typical measures that tech companies often use to prevent leaks about new products.

"What Pichai said [about Dragonfly being an experiment] was ultimately horse shit", an anonymous Google employee told The Intercept.

"How much did Sergey know?"

Google has described the search app, known as Project Dragonfly, as an experiment not close to launching.

Ms Fong-Jones said she would match funds up to a total of $100,000.

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