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MIT Technology Review

Google’s search engine for China would link searches to phone numbers

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Google’s “Dragonfly” search engine prototype for China will reportedly link users’ searches on an Android app to their personal phone numbers, making it harder to avoid government surveillance.

The context: Last month, a whistleblower told The Intercept that Google is building a search engine that will blacklist terms like “human rights” or “Tiananmen Square” to please the Chinese government. Google’s US employees aren’t happy. Senior research scientist Jack Poulson quit last week and said he is one of five to resign over the project, while 1,400 Googlers have allegedly signed a letter demanding to know more. US lawmakers are also looking for answers. Google has yet to respond or comment publicly.

The history: Google withdrew from China in 2010, citing human rights concerns after the company uncovered a phishing attack on activists. It isn’t clear what’s led to the change of heart, but since 2010 China’s government has if anything become even more keen on surveilling its population.

Time to speak up: China is the world’s biggest single market for internet users, so it’s unsurprising Google wants to establish a presence there. But its policy of refusing to comment on Dragonfly is looking increasingly unsustainable.

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