Google employees question company plans for Chinese search engine

Report Google Employees Fear Human Rights Violations over China Censorship Plan			Robert Galbraith  UPI		16 Aug 2018

Google employees who signed the petition say they were unaware of Dragonfly, and therefore could not make an ethical decision on what they were building. It left in 2010 over an escalating row with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyberattacks against Google and other large US firms. This time around, they're taking issue with Google's decision to create a government-approved search app for China, according to a New York Times report published on Thursday.

"That the decision to build Dragonfly was made in secret, and progressed even with the AI Principles [to govern Google's ethical use of AI] in place makes clear that the Principles alone are not enough". Google demonstrated a version of the censored search engine to Chinese officials, the Intercept said.

While expressing interest in continuing to expand the company's services in China, Pichai told the employees that the company was "not close" to launching a search product there and that whether it would - or could - "is all very unclear", the CNBC report said.

Pichai said that the company's not close to launching a search product for China.

Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more "transparency, oversight and accountability", according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday. It has not gone unnoticed by employees that Google's leaders have yet to address the censored search-engine reports internally, two weeks after the news first came out.

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The letter's contents were confirmed by a Google employee who helped organise it but who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the debate.

A letter is circulating among Google's staff that calls for the creation of an "ethics review structure", which would make ethical assessments of the company's projects. Work on the project, code-named Dragonfly, has been ongoing secretly since 2017, raising concerns among employees that they have been unknowingly contributing to a project which will withhold information from the Chinese people.

In a letter to the CEO, the employees urged that Google withdraw from Project Maven. Google can ply its staff with all the free food and ping-pong tables it wants, but it looks like its employees' vigilance and righteousness aren't going anywhere any time soon. Thousands of Google workers signed a petition demanding leaders put an end to the relationship and promise to never produce AI-enhanced weapons. Many of Google's key services aren't available in China, either.

The new project is said to be codenamed 'Dragonfly'.

The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google.

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