Wednesday, 28 November 2018 08:03

Employees call on Google to cancel China project Featured

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Employees call on Google to cancel China project Pixabay

More than 200 Google employees have published a letter, calling on the company to cancel its proposed censored search engine for China, a project that has been named Dragonfly.

In the letter, the employees said they were joining Amnesty International in calling for an end to the project. The rights organisation is running a campaign at Google offices around the world to protest against the project.

The news that Google plans to re-enter China — the company had a censored search engine in operation from 2006 to 2010, but pulled out when its servers were hacked by Chinese authorities — surfaced on 1 August in The Intercept.

There have been numerous developments since then, with even US Vice-President Mike Pence calling on the company to scrap the project.

Google has been silent about the project for the most part, but in October its chief, Sundar Pichai, referred to it in public, telling a conference that what had been developed up to that point was "very promising".

The employees said in their letter that their opposition was not targeted at China, but "we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be".

They said Dragonfly, if implemented, would send a message to other similar regimes that would make it harder for Google to deny them similar restrictive features.

"Our company’s decision comes as the Chinese Government is openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control," they wrote.

"Many of these rely on advanced technologies, and combine online activity, personal records, and mass monitoring to track and profile citizens.

"Reports are already showing who bears the cost, including Uighurs, women’s rights advocates, and students.

"Providing the Chinese Government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses."

The employees said they had joined Google because they believed the company was willing to place its values above its profits.

"After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google’s support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case. This is why we’re taking a stand," they said.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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