If you’re a Chinese dissident trying to avoid detection on the web, using Google’s new Chinese search engine might not be a good idea, if a new report on the developing project is to be believed.
The Intercept reports that Google’s purpose-built censored Chinese search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, will link users’ searches to phone numbers, theoretically allowing authorities to link searches to individuals.
Via the Intercept:
Sources familiar with the project said that prototypes of the search engine linked the search app on a user’s Android smartphone with their phone number. This means individual people’s searches could be easily tracked – and any user seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google.
Google has so far declined to publicly address concerns about the Chinese censorship plans and did not respond to a request for comment on this story. In the six weeks since the first details about Dragonfly were revealed, the company has refused to engage with human rights groups, ignored dozens of reporters’ questions, and rebuffed U.S. senators.
The pressure on Google has continued to intensify. On Thursday, 16 U.S. lawmakers wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai expressing “serious concerns” about Dragonfly and demanding information about the company’s China plans. Meanwhile, Jack Poulson, a former Google senior research scientist, told The Intercept that he was one of about five employees to have resigned from the company due to Dragonfly.
This follows news that the Dragonfly search engine will block “blacklisted” terms like “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize.” A company based in mainland China, operating Dragonfly alongside Google as a “joint venture,” would be able to update the list of blacklisted terms.
Google is also facing political pressure due to its political bias. President Trump recently attacked the tech giants over alleged bias in its search results. Google denied it is politically biased, after which Breitbart News published a hour-long internal video from the company showing its executives lamenting the election of Trump, characterizing his voters as “xenophobes,” and brainstorming ways to thwart the populist movement emerging around the globe.
Republican house majority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy has since called on the company to send an executive to testify before Congress.