The prototype of the new Google search engine for China will allow the government to track the search queries made by its citizens, according to a report by The Intercept.
The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, has been the subject of massive scrutiny as it will allegedly implement China's strict censorship regulations. However, with the news that it will also monitor the online activity of the Chinese people, the new Google search engine for China just got even more controversial.
Google Dragonfly Will Track Search Queries
According to The Intercept, a prototype of Google's Project Dragonfly revealed that search queries will be linked to personal phone numbers, which will allow the Chinese government to monitor the search queries made by each citizen.
Prototypes of the search engine, which is being designed to work with Android-powered devices, will link the app with the user's mobile phone number, sources familiar with the matter told The Intercept. Citizens who input search queries that are banned by the government may find themselves under interrogation or detention.
"This is very problematic from a privacy point of view, because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people's behavior," said Human Rights Watch senior internet researcher Cynthia Wong.
The report also claimed that in the search engine, information on weather and air pollution in China has been replaced by figures from an unnamed source in Beijing. The air pollution in the city is horrible, and the government has tried to hide data that showed the real numbers that contradicted the official measurements.
Project Dragonfly will also remove content that is deemed as sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party, such as information on free speech, human rights, peaceful protests, democracy, and political dissidents. Google has allegedly compiled a list of terms that will be censored, including the Mandarin words for human rights, student protest, and Nobel Prize.
Google Employees Resigning Over Dragonfly
Project Dragonfly's search queries tracking, combined with the censorship measures, have made several Google employees resign. One of these employees was Jack Poulson, a former senior Google scientist who left the company in protests over Project Dragonfly.
"There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands," Poulson warned in his resignation letter to Google.
Several weeks have passed since Google revealed Dragonfly to the public, but the company has not yet addressed the many concerns against the project. Google CEO Sundar Pichai was absent in a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where he would have been questioned about the search engine for China.