On Tuesday Google employees launched an open campaign against the company’s Dragonfly project which will enable the Chinese government to censor web content and track users’ search details. Dragonfly is the code name of a search engine project Google is apparently working on for the Chinese market. Though Google has not said much about it, Keith Enright, the company’s privacy officer confirmed its existence at a Senate Commercial Committee hearing, in October. The protesting employees say that the project is about a censored search engine that would also link the users’ search queries with their phone numbers, using which the government can track searches easily.
In an open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai published in Medium, the protesting employees demanded to cancel the project. They stated in the letter that their opposition is not about China but to technologies that would enable the powerful to oppress the vulnerable. They warned that Dragonfly would establish a dangerous precedent that would force the company to make similar concessions to other governments. The letter also said that the leadership’s response has been unsatisfactory so far. It called for transparency, clear communication and accountability. The protesters expressed their disappointment at the way the company is handling the issue. They added that many of them joined Google with the company’s values in mind and an impression that the company places its values above its profits. The project indicates that Google is going back on its previous stand on Chinese surveillance and censorship.
In 2010 Google stopped its search service in China because of issues related to censorship and surveillance. Following this, the government continued to exert control over internet users by blacklisting websites and denying access to information about many historical events. The Google employees are not alone in the campaign as the Amnesty International joined hands with them. Amnesty’s Joe Westby stated that the world’s number on the search engine should be fighting for a free internet instead of supporting a country that is bent on curtailing the freedom of internet users. Amnesty International protested in front of Google offices in many parts of the world