Google Employees Demand Transparency Around China Search Engine

A letter circulating around Google’s headquarters raises concerns among hundreds of its employees about the company’s willingness to launch a search engine app that abides by China’s “censorship requirements.”   

The letter, obtained by The New York Times, stirs concerns among Google employees who say it raises “urgent moral and ethical issues.” The letter also states that the employees do not have the “information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

The letter demands more transparency on the part of the executives and leadership staff to help employees understand the ethical consequences of their work.

Google’s interest in China and bringing search back to the country resurfaced with reports that the company is working on a search app, and gaining aid from a director company, 265.com, that it acquired in 2008.

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The secret project, dubbed as Dragonfly, prompted outrage among employees who worried they had been unwittingly working on technology that would help China withhold information from its citizens according to the report.

Google originally exited China in in 2010 after the company discovered an attack on its corporate infrastructure by Chinese hackers. They attempted to access Gmail accounts of human rights activists. The attack led to government censorship and prompted Google to pull its search engine from the country to make a statement.

It’s not the first time Google employees protested against the company’s involvement in a Pentagon project to use artificial intelligence. Google eventually conceded, in part, and released a series of ethical principles around its use of AI.

And at the company’s shareholder meeting in June, the topic reared its head once again based on the blog post by Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai in which he outlined seven principles to guide Google’s work in AI.

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