Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the House Judiciary committee that the company currently had “no plans” to launch its censored search engine in China, leaving the possibility open for the future. Now, reports are suggesting that internal conflict over Project Dragonfly has seen work on the search engine come to an end for the time being.
Two engineers who remain anonymous have revealed to The Intercept that Google has supposedly shut down Project Dragonfly, seeing its April, 2019 release date withheld indefinitely. This is due to internal conflicts that had “massive ramifications” on the company, particularly to CEO Sundar Pichai who has advocated the effort for over two years.
The report explains that Google was utilising a Chinese website called “265.com” to collect data from the people of Beijing in order to build its library of censored information. Although queries have redirected users to Baidu, Google’s primary competitor in China, it looks as though the American company has been using the website as a “honeypot for market research” via an API key.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came when the publication revealed that Google’s privacy team were being kept out of the loop, causing major friction within the company. Development was fragmented to the point that engineers were told to “use different datasets for their work,” forgoing the ordinary protocol of running collected search queries by the privacy team.
Development on Google China has since reportedly come to a halt, with members moved from Project Dragonfly onto other plans within India, Indonesia, Russia, the Middle East and Brazil. It’s unclear whether China will come back into the equation at some point down the line, or what these other projects will consist of, but things don’t seem to be running too smoothly at the Google HQ.
KitGuru Says: Google has yet to speak out about the project, but its tone at Congress ensures that there is no definitive that the company has to abide by. I’m sure the US government is thrilled at the potential of Project Dragonfly being no more, but only time will tell if these reports hold water.