Wednesday, 12 December 2018 11:11

Google chief blows hot and cold over China project

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Google chief blows hot and cold over China project Pixabay

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has told the US House Judiciary Committee that the company currently has no plans to launch a censored search engine in China, while simultaneously admitting that such a project had been underway for a year and that more than 100 people had worked on it.

The Intercept reported that when he was asked to confirm that Google would launch a search tool that would aid in surveillance and censorship in China, Pichai responded with an oblique answer, saying:

"One of the things that’s important to us as a company, we have a stated mission of providing users with information, and so we always think it’s our duty to explore possibilities to give users access to information.

"I have a commitment, but as I’ve said earlier on this we’ll be very thoughtful and we’ll engage widely as we make progress."

The news that Google plans to re-enter China with a project known as Dragonfly — 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 Pichai referred to it in public, telling a conference that what had been developed up to that point was "very promising".

Last month, a number of Google employees published a letter, calling on the company to cancel the proposed censored search engine for China.

When Pichai was asked what user information Google would share with Beijing authorities, he again avoided a direct answer, saying: "We would look at what the conditions are to operate … [and we would] explore a wide range of possibilities.”


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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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