In an effort to return to the Chinese market, this time playing by Chinese government rules, Google has reportedly built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that will links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers which will make it easier for the government to monitor search queries from its citizenry.
According to The Intercept, Google has developed an app-based project, codenamed “Dragonfly”, that would additionally remove content that the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party deems sensitive.
In the past, the government has heavily censored a wide swath of content including information about freedom of speech, dissidents, peaceful protest and human rights. For example, users would be unable to get results on such queries as “student protest” and “Nobel Prize” when searched in Mandarin.
The possibility that search results would be linked to a person’s phone number is especially troubling say privacy advocates.
“This is very problematic from a privacy point of view, because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people’s behavior,” Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher with Human Rights Watch told The Intercept. “Linking searches to a phone number would make it much harder for people to avoid the kind of overreaching government surveillance that is pervasive in China.”
Google’s decision to bend to the will of Chinese authorities in an effort to compete in the Chinese market led to engineers resigning in protest over the strategy last week – with one engineer saying he felt it was his “ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments.”