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Google Assures Uncensored Search Engine for China

In December, Google announced it was opening an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing.

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Central Election Commission member Alexander Klyukin said the commission had sent an official letter to Larry Page, the CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet. Wikimedia Commons. VOA
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More than a dozen human rights groups are urging Google not to offer censored internet search in China, amid reports it is planning to again provide the service in the giant market.

A joint letter Tuesday calls on CEO Sundar Pichai to explain what Google is doing to safeguard users from the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance.

It describes the company’s secretive plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship as representing “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights.”

“The Chinese government extensively violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy; by accommodating the Chinese authorities’ repression of dissent, Google would be actively participating in those violations for millions of internet users in China,” the letter says.

In a statement, Google said it has “been investing for many years to help Chinese users, from developing Android, through mobile apps such as Google Translate and Files Go, and our developer tools. But our work on search has been exploratory, and we are not close to launching a search product in China.”

In the U.S., President Donald Trump and other conservatives have lobbed charges of censorship at Google and other U.S. tech companies, though they haven’t provided evidence. On Tuesday, Trump claimed that Google had rigged search results about him “so that almost all stories & news is BAD.” A top adviser said the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google should face federal regulation. The companies deny the accusations.

Meanwhile, Apple announced plans last year to open a data center in mainland China with ties to the country’s government, raising concerns about the security of iCloud accounts that store personal information from Apple customers who live in mainland China, even when they’re traveling outside the country. Other major technology companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM, already had similar deals to run data centers in mainland China to remain in the good graces of the country’s Communist government.

Google Along with Other SSocial Media Giants will Face The Lawmakers, Wikimedia Commons
Google created a custom Android app that will automatically filter out sites blocked by China’s so-called “Great Firewall.” Wikimedia Commons

Google employees protest

The rights groups’ expression of concern over a Chinese search engine from Google follows a letter earlier this month from more than a thousand Google employees protesting the China plans. The letter called on executives to review ethics and transparency at the company.

Google had previously complied with censorship controls starting in 2006 as it sought a toehold in the booming Chinese economy. But it exited the Chinese search market in 2010 under unrelenting pressure from human rights groups and some shareholders.

Tuesday’s letter, signed by groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, said China’s controls over the internet have only strengthened since then amid an overall crackdown on civil liberties and freedom of expression. The letter said it would be difficult for Google to relaunch a search engine “in a way that would be compatible with the company’s human rights responsibilities under international standards, or its own commitments.”

Investing in China

According to online news site The Intercept, Google created a custom Android app that will automatically filter out sites blocked by China’s so-called “Great Firewall.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin was born in the Soviet Union in 1973 and lived there until age 6 when his family fled. He has said his experience with a repressive regime shaped his and the company’s views.

Also Read: Here Comes The Bilingual Google Assistant

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However, Pichai, who became CEO in 2015, has said he wants Google to be in China serving Chinese users.

In December, Google announced it was opening an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing, and in June, Google invested $550 million in JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce platform that is second only to Alibaba in the country. The companies said they would collaborate on retail solutions around the world without mentioning China, where Google services including Gmail and YouTube are blocked. (VOA)

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Google Sends Email to Employees Asking Them to Delete China Search Engine Memo

The China search engine would link users' search history to their personal phone numbers, according to the memo

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Google asks employees to delete China search engine memo: Report. Wikimedia Commons

In its bid to suppress a memo revealing information about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, Google has sent an email to employees asking them to delete the sensitive document, The Intercept reported.

Authored by a Google engineer familiar with the project, the memo disclosed that the search system would require users in China to log in to perform searches.

Codenamed Dragonfly, the search engine would track the location of users and share the data with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data, said the report on Friday, citing the memo.

The news about Google’s plan to build a censored search engine in China broke in August when The Intercept reported that the search platform would blacklist “sensitive queries” about topics including politics, free speech, democracy, human rights and peaceful protest, triggering internal protests among some Google employees.

Two weeks after that report, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the company’s employees that the China plan was in its “early stages” and “exploratory”.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. (Wikimedia Commons)

A group of Google employees who were organising internal protests over the censored search system got access to the memo detailing information about the project.

The Google leadership, according to the The Intercept report, were furious when they discovered that the memo was being passed among employees who were not supposed to know about about the Dragonfly project.

Also Read- India Gets Its Sex Offender Registry

The China search engine would link users’ search history to their personal phone numbers, according to the memo.

This means if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google, individual people could easily be tracked and users seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention. (IANS)