Tech giant Google has reportedly terminated its censored Chinese search engine product known as “Project Dragonfly.”
The MIT Technology Review reports that Silicon Valley tech giant Google has terminated its censored Chinese search engine “Project Dragonfly” which came under heavy criticism. During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Google VP Karan Bhatia stated: “We have terminated Project Dragonfly.”
In December 2018, The Intercept reported that the project had “effectively ended,” which Google then confirmed to the Verge in March but some Google employees internally believed that the project could still be ongoing. Employees noticed in December there had been around 500 changes made to Dragonfly-related code, another 400 changes were made in January and it was noticed that company budgeting plans showed around 100 workers grouped under the budget associated with Project Dragonfly. Later reporters in March 2019 indicated that Google had undertaken a “performance review” of Project Dragonfly.
At the time, Google denied any ongoing work on the project telling the Verge: “This speculation is wholly inaccurate. Quite simply: there’s no work happening on Dragonfly. As we’ve said for many months, we have no plans to launch Search in China and there is no work being undertaken on such a project. Team members have moved to new projects.”
The project drew criticism from many, including President Mike Pence. During a speech before the Hudson Institute in October of 2018, Vice President Mike Pence criticized what he believed to be China’s theft of U.S. technology, urging Google to take action on the issue. Pence said during the speech that other business leaders are hesitant to enter the Chinese market “if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing’s oppression.”
Pence called on Google to listen to these other leaders and that “more must follow suit.” He also called on Google to end the development of Project Dragonfly: “For example, Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,” said Pence.
During a recent interview with Tucker Carlson, Thiel commented on Google’s relationship with China stating: “I think the Chinese are confident enough, the Ministry of State Security is likely to have infiltrated Google, and then I think the Google management has sort of a decision of either letting the software go out the front door, or figuring, it will get stolen anyway and go out the back door.” Thiel, a supporter of President Donald Trump, recently gave a speech in which he called Google “treasonous” based on the company’s work with communist China.
Facebook’s former security chief, Alex Stamos, took to Twitter to comment on Thiel’s statement, saying that it is “completely reasonable to assume that MSS and SVR have subverted employees at major tech companies. MSS stands for the Chinese Ministry of State Security while SVR stands for Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, SVR RF. Read more here.