Google guards China search engine project 'Dragonfly' details from US Congress

Keith Enright went so far as to confirm that the Google China search project 'Dragonfly' does exist.

Without giving out many details about Google's reported plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, a top company executive told lawmakers in the US that the company would follow its privacy and security controls in case it pursues any interest in China.

Appearing before members of the US Congress at a Senate Commerce Commerce Committee hearing on 27 September, Google's chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, went so far as to confirm that the China search project does exist, The Wired reported.

But Enright did not disclose much, leaving the lawmakers disappointed.

Keith Enright, chief privacy officer at Google LLC, testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on safeguards for consumer data privacy in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC17971A0280

Keith Enright, chief privacy officer at Google LLC, testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on safeguards for consumer data privacy in Washington. Image: Reuters

"My understanding is we are not, in fact, close to launching a search product in China, and whether we would or could at some point in the future remains unclear," Enright was quoted as saying to Senator Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire.

The news about Google's plan to build a censored search engine in China broke in August when The Intercept reported that the search platform would blacklist "sensitive queries" about topics including politics, free speech, democracy, human rights and peaceful protest, triggering internal protests among some Google employees.

According to a memo on the project, authored by a Google engineer, the search system would require users in China to log in to perform searches, and would share crucial data with a Chinese partner.

In the hearing before the Congress, Enright declined to expound upon its purpose, insisting he was "not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project."

Representative of five other companies, besides Google, also appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

These five companies were. Apple, AT&T, Amazon, Charter Communications and Twitter.

Google was, however, not the only company at the hearing to face questions about China.

Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, asked the Apple representative whether the company upholds its human rights and privacy standards there, The Wired report said.

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