by WorldTribune Staff, September 23, 2018
Google employees were told to delete a memo which leaked details about the tech giant’s plans to launch a search engine in China which will comply with Beijing’s rigid censorship demands, a report said.
“The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location – and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have ‘unilateral access’ to the data,” The Intercept said in a Sept. 21 report.
The memo was shared among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, the report said.
Google leadership discovered the memo “and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it,” the report said, citing three sources familiar with the situation.
Human resources personnel ordered employees who had access to the memo to immediately delete it from their computers.
“Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained ‘pixel trackers’ that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined,” The Intercept’s report said.
The memo reveals the search engine was being developed as an app for both Android and iOS devices, and would force users to sign in so they could use the service.
The memo confirms, as The Intercept first reported, that users’ searches would be associated with their personal phone number. The memo adds that Chinese users’ movements would also be stored, along with the IP address of their device and links they clicked on.
The memo accuses developers working on the project of creating “spying tools” for the Chinese government to monitor its citizens.
Meanwhile, Business Insider reported that it obtained a draft copy of a proposed executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump that would ask federal law enforcement to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws,” to “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”
The White House has distanced itself from the draft.
The proposed text says:
“Whether reading news or looking for local businesses, citizens rely on search, social media, and other online platforms to provide objective and reliable information to shape a host of decisions ranging from consumer purchases to votes in elections. Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms. Vibrant competition in the online ecosystem is essential to ensuring accountability for the platforms that hold so much sway over our economy and democratic process.”
The text continues: “… Executive departments and agencies with authorities that could be used to enhance competition among online platforms (agencies) shall, where consistent with other laws, use those authorities to promote competition and ensure that no online platform exercises market power in a way that harms consumers, including through the exercise of bias.”
“… Not later than 30 days from the date of this order, agencies shall submit to the Director of the National Economic Council an initial list of (1) actions each agency can potentially take to protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”
The order also commands federal agencies to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws.”
Deputy White House press secretary Lindsey Waters said in a statement on Sept. 22 that “Although the White House is concerned about the conduct of online platforms and their impact on society, this document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process.”