Since word broke on Google's censored search engine Dragonfly, intended for China, the response has been incredibly negative. The product, which has been in development for over a year, immediately began raising questions about user privacy, government censorship, and corporate culture. China has demanded that search engines remove results about human rights, democracy, peaceful protest, and more. Years ago, Google pulled out of China over censorship concerns, and Dragonfly indicated a change in corporate responsibility.
This week, during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Karan Bhatia, Google's vice president of public policy, said,
We have terminated Project Dragonfly.
The company claims that this is not a new development, pointing to a statement from March that said that the company was not actively working on the project and employees have been moved to other projects. However, testifying before the Senate and the word "terminated" are significantly more firm. Not currently working on a project is not the end of the project, but termination indicates a certain finality.
As the battle between the West and China heats up, confirming the end of this project is a smart move. As it was, policymakers and employees have expressed their dislike of the project. A letter was sent to Google, encouraging the company to reconsider the project, while unhappy employees resigned over the human rights implications. Things heated up when privacy concerns were exposed, ending with even veteran executives leaving.
Google's China ties have already become a problem for the company when exports to Huawei were recently banned. This meant that Google could not provide updates for Android devices produced by the company. While the ban is partially suspended, the uncertainty could definitely have played a role in this decision. Hopefully, however, the decision was made after reconsidering the human rights, privacy, and censorship concerns.