More than 500 Google employees have signed a letter demanding to drop project Dragonfly, Google’s heavily censored “experimental” search app designed for the Chinese market.
The open letter follows a public petition against project Dragonfly launched by the human rights group Amnesty International, who contacted Google employees on social media encouraging them to start protests outside their employer’s offices.
According to an investigation published by the Intercept, the prototype Dragonfly search engine is designed to exclude Western news outlets and websites like Wikipedia, as well as supress search results that the Chinese government deems unacceptable, such as information on student protests, human rights, and democracy. Dragonfly would also be capable of tracking its user’s location and grant unilateral access to their data, including their phone number and search history, to Google’s “Chinese partner.”
Believing Dragonfly to be but a first step down the slippery slope of gradual concessions to oppressive governments around the world, Googlers called on their company to cancel the project. Having departed the Chinese market as far back as 2010, the company aims to make a return to the country that is home to a 1.4 billion-strong audience, with Dragonfly as its flagship comeback project.
The dissident employees stated they no longer believe that Google is “a company willing to place its values over profits,” and labeled Google’s 2018 as “a year of disappointments,” including Project Maven, a US military program that uses AI to enhance the targeting of drone strikes.
“Google is too powerful not to be held accountable,” the protesting employees wrote on November 27. “We deserve to know what we’re building and we deserve a say in these significant decisions,” adding that “This is why we’re taking a stand.”
With more and more tech companies bending the knee before China’s neverending expansion of its totalitarian surveillance apparatus, some are still able and willing to bypass the Great Firewall, including those on our Best VPN for China list.