It seems as the final nail in the coffin for Google's Project Dragonfly has been hit. The Intercept says it was the company's privacy team that dealt the killing blow, after preventing developers from accessing essential data on how the Chinese use search engines.
The story goes something like this: in order to build a search engine that does not show links to content blocked or censored by the Chinese government, Google's developers need two things. One is a list of all the blocked and censored content, and the other is access to the Chinese search engine habits – what they search for and how.
These two things could be obtained through a website called 265.com, a Chinese-language web directory service claiming to be “China’s most used homepage.” Among other services, it has a search box, which basically redirects people to Baidu. For Google, this was interesting because the site had all this data on what people search for. So, it bought the company and started digging through the information.
“Under normal company protocol, analysis of people’s search queries is subject to tight constraints and should be reviewed by the company’s privacy staff, whose job is to safeguard user rights,” The Intercept says (opens in new tab). This team was kept in the dark about what the developer team was doing, and only found out after the media reported on it.
And that’s when it really hit the fan. According to insiders, the privacy team was ‘really pissed’. The developers ended up working on projects related to other parts of the world, and the data from 265 was banned.
“The 265 data was integral to Dragonfly,” a source told the Intercept. “Access to the data has been suspended now, which has stopped progress.”
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