Google's internal conflict with privacy team has led to end of Project Dragonfly

Google's privacy team learned about the Dragonfly when the information was disclosed to the public in August.

After a lot of talks emerged of a search engine being developed by Google for China called Project Dragonfly, it seems the Mountain View-based tech giant has shut down the effort entirely after internal members of Google’s privacy team raised concerns. Reportedly, Google had kept the entire project a secret from them.

A demonstrator holds up a sign in the doorway as Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies. Reuters

A demonstrator holds up a sign in the doorway as Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies. Reuters

As per a report by The Intercept, the internal rift has effectively shut down the project and it is a major blow for CEO Sundar Pichai, who just recently testified before the US Congress after allegations emerged of political bias in search results.

As per the report, Pichai, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and other executives had rekindled the hope of entering the Chinese market after Google had to exit the country in 2010. The exit was majorly due to China’s communist party's strong control over the internet and its great firewall which prevents any kind of news dissemination that is not in line with government policies

The Intercept says that Google, in collaboration with a Beijing based website called 265.com, had developed blacklists over the past couple of years for blocking out certain categories from a probable Chinese search engine such as democracy, human rights and peaceful protest.

The report states that 265.com happens to be a website that “provides its Chinese visitors with news updates, information about financial markets, horoscopes and advertisements for cheap flights and hotels.”

Google purchased this website from Chinese billionaire Cai Wensheng. Baidu, the country’s biggest search engine which also happens to be Google’s main competitor in China, was the default search engine for 265.com. So in a way Google used 265.com as a ‘honeypot’ to harvest user data of people on mainland China.

This analysis was crucial for Google to enter into the Chinese market, but was subject to review by Google’s privacy staff. As a matter of fact, the privacy team learned about Project Dragonfly only when the information was disclosed to the public in August via an earlier report by The Intercept. Needless to say the privacy team was livid at being kept in the dark about Dragonfly and the internal rift has finally culminated in shutting the project down.

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