Google’s pretty good about keeping secrets under wraps, but it looks like a leaked memo about its Project Dragonfly is going to cause some problems. According to Mashable, the “creepy” project information was revealed after a Google engineer reportedly shared secret details with some other internal engineers about Dragonfly. However, once HR got wind of what was going on, they forced everyone to delete any and all copies of the memo. And considering that Google is a giant technological firm, they even used “pixel trackers” to figure out which employees had read the messages, detailed CNET.
The information that was leaked via the memo included some previously-unknown details. For one, the project is about building a search engine specifically for China. And while it’s still in the “exploratory” stages, 1,000 Google employees have already been protesting it, believing it to be a censorship tool for the government.
It’s unclear whether the Dragonfly project would be disguised as a regular Google search page, or whether it would have a different name. However what is known, is that it is being developed as an app for Android and iOS, described the Intercept.
Regardless, the search engine would reportedly require everyone to log in before using it. Plus, whenever anyone searched anything, their physical location would be identified. The information would be made available to a “Chinese partner company,” who in turn “could presumably share [the information] with the Chinese government.”
— TonerNews (@tonernews) September 18, 2018
The information about the user might also include personal identifying markers like phone numbers. Also, anything someone searches would be stored, along with their IP addresses. From there, the “partner company” could “selectively edit search result pages … unilaterally, and with few controls seemingly in place.” It was also described as “spying tools.”
— TorGuard (@TorGuard) September 17, 2018
The ability to “edit” search results would include the option to “blacklist sensitive queries.” This is just a fancy way of saying that if certain blacklisted keywords are searched in the app, that there would be zero results. Some of the surprising blacklisted keywords for the prototype model included such words like “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize.”
In today's information & technology age, transparency in business operations has become critical. Employees & consumers are becoming aware of their rights & don't hesitate in demanding answers. Will @Google open it's cards about #ProjectDragonFly? pic.twitter.com/t50aEJRzoC
— Rishi Darda (@rishidarda) September 17, 2018
When asked about the project and memo, this is what Google told CNET.
“We’ve 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.”