Google confirms Chinese censored search app

Angelica Greene
October 18, 2018

Google's hardly the only tech company that plays footsie with China's totalitarian regime.

Google's chief executive defended his company's plan to explore a search engine tailored for users in China despite concerns that would mean complying with the country's strict internet censors.

Pichai was speaking on Monday at a San Francisco conference organized for the 25th anniversary of Wired magazine. After removing service from China in 2010, Google is re-exploring the idea of service in the area. China's mobile market was highly dominated by Android devices until Chinese competitors developed an alternative to Google's operating system.

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He was also quick to defend the project, which human rights groups have suggested will likely to be complicit in human rights violations and would allow for far more detailed tracking and profiling of people's behaviour. As for a censored search engine, Pichai said the company wanted to see what a Google search engine that complied with Chinese law would look like. It's still too early, and we don't know if we can do this in China, but we think it's important that we explore this market. "I think it's important for us given how important the market is and how many users there are". And it could pave the way for Google to reenter China's online search market after almost a decade. The tests showed that more than 99% of the search queries were served normally. This summer, The Intercept broke the news that Google had built a search engine that would censor information. He said the potential to expose the world to more information is guiding Google's push into China. Indeed, Chinese regional authorities just laid out how internet and telecoms firms - presumably including Google - would be strong-armed into spying on the country's minority Muslim population. "But we also follow the rule of law in every country", he said.

Pichai said these compromises do not prevent Dragonfly from helping some Chinese citizens, such as those looking for information about cancer treatments. Pichai specifically mentioned the problem of fake cancer treatments in search results - an issue Baidu has struggled with in the past. Surprisingly, such research-based projects are usually kept confidential but google seems to be breaking the norms in this case.

But the initiative has sparked an internal debate over Google's corporate values that's spilled into public view. He did write to senators on 31 August, but his letter didn't provide much additional information on the project.

Other reports by GizPress

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