During a hearing for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) grilled a Google representative on the company’s operations in China, including its widely reported forthcoming censored search app.
During yesterday’s hearing in which representatives from multiple tech companies including Google, AT&T, Amazon, and Twitter appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) grilled Google’s representative at the hearing on the company’s operations in China and the development of a censored Chinese search engine known as Project Dragonfly.
“Mr.Enright, I want to go back to a topic that a couple of other senators raised with you which is China,” said Cruz speaking to Google’s Chief Privacy Officer Keith Enright. “After a cyberattack compromised the Gmail accounts of dozens of Chinese human rights advocates, Google decided in March of 2010 to shut down it’s operations in China, at the time Google released a statement that said, quote ‘we want as many people as possible in the world to have access to our services including those in mainland China but the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.’ Despite taking this principled stand in 2010, it’s been reported last month that Google has been secretly developing a search engine for China as part of a project known as Dragonfly. Are those reports accurate?”
Enright replied: “Senator thank you for the question, as we’ve said I’m aware of those reports, I need to be clear for the record that my understanding is that we are not close to launching a search product in China and whether we eventually could or would remains unclear.” Cruz continued: “Is there a Project Dragonfly and if there is, what is it?”
Enright stated: “We have an array of internal projects and I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t think that it was necessarily appropriate for a privacy conversation to speculate as to what we might be looking at in terms of a product launch in some part of the world.” Cruz replied: “So you’re not answering my question on Project Dragonfly?” To which Enright said: “There is a Project Dragonfly.”
“And it’s focused on a search engine in China, is that accurate?” asked Cruz. “There is no — we are not close to launching a search product-” replied Enright before being cut off by Cruz: “You’re saying you’re not close to launching, what I’m asking is the topic of Project Dragonfly, is it a project to develop a search engine in China? I didn’t ask timing of the launch I asked what it is.”
Enright replied: “Understood, I am not clear on the contours of what is in the scope or out of the scope for that project but I can say that if you were close to launching a search product in China, myself and my team would be very actively engaged to ensure that it was going through the appropriate privacy review process and that it was consistent with our privacy values and the commitments that we’ve made to our users.”
Cruz asked: “In your opinion does China engage in censoring its citizens?” To which Enright stated: “As the privacy representative for Google I’m not sure that I have an informed opinion on that question.”
So while many senators failed to hold Google accountable for their project which aims to launch a censored search engine within China, Sen. Ted Cruz took the Silicon Valley tech firm to task over the issue. As more tech companies are called to testify about their actions, hopefully, we will see more Senators questioning possible abuse of power and censorship.