Project Dragonfly - what Google would look like in China

Marco Green
October 16, 2018

If they received an answer, we don't know, but yesterday Yesterday, during a conference in San Francisco, Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, gave some insights about the company's pans regarding China.

"We are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world's population", the Google CEO said during the Wired25 conference, as reported by the organiser, Wired.

The comments are the first time Google has officially confirmed it is working on the search engine, dubbed Project Dragonfly, which has been criticised heavily by human rights organisations. "I think it's important for us given how important the market is and how many users there are".

Despite the promising test results, Pichai said the company is still in very early stages of exploring the opportunity of re-releasing Google Search in China and there's no decision yet if it will commit to the development of that product.

Pichai described the "Dragonfly" as an exploratory internal project.

"We wanted to learn what it would look like if Google were in China", Pichai said. "So that's what we built internally".

In September, Google reportedly developed a prototype of "Dragonfly" that linked users' search history to their personal phone numbers allowing security agencies to easily track users seeking out information banned by the government.

In 2006, the search engine was introduced to Chinese internet users, but after many quarrels with the Chinese government, it moved its servers to Hong Kong, which has fewer restrictions on the internet.

However, eventually, Google pulled out of China completely in 2010 after several large-scale attacks on the company purportedly by the Chinese government.

Pichai said that by offering a search engine in China again, Google would be able to provide some 800 million users with better information than what is available on important subjects, such as cancer treatments.

"But we also follow the rule of law in every country", hinting at censoring search queries that the Chinese government deems harmful to its citizens.

Earlier this month, United States vice-President Mike Pence called for Google to immediately halt work on Dragonfly, saying in a speech that it would "strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers". "If there is a way to sort of freeze some of it, so it can be brought off the shelf and quickly deployed while we are dripping it all out, and changing it, we should take the long-term view". "But even on this particular issue it's not what the employees said, its more the debate within the AI community", Pichai said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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