Google 'Dragonfly' project continues in secrecy: Report

A source told The Intercept that a closed committee of Google execs will be examining the project directly.

    2019/03/28

NSFW    MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA — Google is carrying out secret reviews of Dragonfly, a censored search engine designed for China, according to a report by The Intercept.

Google's infamous Dragonfly project, a search engine designed specifically for the Chinese government, was met with intense backlash from human rights activists and Google's own privacy team who believed the project lacked transparency.

In December 2018, Google announced that it had terminated all efforts to continue the project. However, a recent investigation suggests Dragonfly is far from being terminated.

A report by The Intercept states that Google is now carrying out a secret internal review of the project.

Usually, Google projects are assessed by both peers and managers, however, a source told The Intercept that a closed committee of Google execs will be examining the project directly.

Other sources told The Intercept that the reviews were likely being kept secret due to the controversy Dragonfly faced when information about the project was leaked back in August 2018. At the time, only 0.35 percent of Google employees knew about the project.

After the project was exposed, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Google employees that from then on they would, quote, "definitely be transparent about Dragonfly as we get closer to actually having a plan of record. We definitely do plan to engage more and talk more."

However, the project is still being kept secret from large portions of staff. An anonymous employee told The Intercept that Google was, quote, "holding any Dragonfly-specific documents out of employees' review tools, so that promotion is decided only by a committee that is read in on Dragonfly."

In fact, Google employees had already suspected the project was still being developed. An Intercept report from March states that employees were carrying out independent investigations within the company.

They found that code for Dragonfly had more than 400 new changes done in January and February this year, indicating that the project was still being developed. According to The Intercept, Google has not responded to requests for comments.
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