‘There is a project Dragonfly,’ Google exec admits during tense Senate hearing

by WorldTribune Staff, September 28, 2018

A Google executive confirmed to a congressional committee on Sept. 26 that the tech giant is developing a “search product” for China.

Chief Privacy Officer Keith Enright confirmed the existence of the Dragonfly search engine, but denied knowledge of what the project entailed during testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Google Chief Privacy Officer Keith Enright testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. / NY Times

Enright said the “search product” for China isn’t close to release.

Reports have said that Google, in developing Dragonfly, is adhering to China’s demand for strict censorship.

Also during the Sept. 26 hearing, Enright initially denied political bias at Google, but under questioning from Sen. Ted Cruz, acknowledged he wasn’t aware of any efforts by Google to check for bias.

Some 1,400 Google employees sent a letter to leadership, saying Dragonfly broke the company’s ethics rules for artificial intelligence development, saying the secretive development of Dragonfly denied them information “to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.” The text of the letter was published by Gizmodo.

Senior researcher Jack Poulson was one of several Google employees who quit over concerns about Dragonfly. In a Sept. 24 letter, Poulson urged senators to question Enright on concerns regarding the search engine project.

Cruz asked Enright whether reports about Dragonfly were accurate.

“There is a project Dragonfly,” Enright said.

Cruz continued: “And it’s focused on a search engine in China. Is that accurate?”

“We are not close to launching a search product,” Enright said.

Cruz rephrased his question. “I didn’t ask timing of launch. I asked what it is.”

Enright responded: “I am not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project. But I can say that if we were close to launching a search product in China, myself and my team would be very actively engaged to ensure that it was going through the appropriate privacy review process and that it was consistent with our privacy values and the commitments that we’ve made to our users.”

Poulson had said in his letter to the panel that the internal privacy review process for Dragonfly was “a catastrophic failure … which one of the reviewers characterized as actively subverted.”

Cruz went on to press Enright on Google’s alleged political bias in search results.

“Do Google search results, as a systemic manner, tend to favor one political party over another?” Cruz asked Enright.

“No sir,” he replied. “We build products for everyone. And in my experience, I see no evidence of bias in the way that our products or services operate.”

Enright acknowledged, however, that his view didn’t go beyond personal experience. “I have not reviewed data,” he said.

Cruz further asked, “Are you aware of efforts to actually empirically assess and determine it?”

“As chief privacy officer of Google, I am not aware of such efforts,” Enright said.

President Donald Trump last month criticized Google for what he said was bias against conservatives after PJ Media reported that among the top 100 search results for “Trump” on Google News, 96 percent of them were from left-leaning media.

The Epoch Times reported it “has repeated the experiment on two dates and obtained similar results.”

The Epoch Times said “no results from popular right-leaning media like The Daily Caller, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Breitbart, The Blaze, The Daily Wire, or Townhall appeared in the first 10 pages of Google News search results. The only three right-leaning sources that regularly showed up were Fox News, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal.”

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