Google Secretly Planning to Launch a Censored Search Engine in China

Capture 14.PNG

August 01, 2018

After an eight-year-long absence from the most populated country in the world, Google search is going to dramatically make a comeback in China.

Google is reportedly planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that is going to blacklist certain websites and search terms to comply with Chinese government’s attempts to censor the Internet, a whistleblower revealed.

According to leaked documents obtained by The Intercept, CEO Sundar Pichai met with a Chinese government official in December 2017 to re-enter the world’s largest market for internet users.

Project Dragonfly — Censored Google Search Engine

Since spring last year Google engineers have been secretly working on a project, dubbed “Dragonfly,” which currently includes two Android mobile apps named—Maotai and Longfei—one of which will get launched by the end of this year after Chinese officials approve it.

The censored version of Google search engine in the form of a mobile app reportedly aims to “blacklist sensitive queries” and filter out all websites (news, human rights, democracy, religion) blocked by the Chinese government, including Wikipedia, BBC News, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Besides this, Google will also blacklist words like human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protests in Chinese of its search engine app.

“Documents seen by The Intercept, marked ‘Google confidential,’ say that Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall,” Intercept’s journalist Ryan Gallagher said.

The censorship will also be embedded in Google’s image search, spell check, and suggested search features, which eventually means the search engine will not display Chinese users potentially “sensitive” terms or images banned by their government.

Some 200 Google employees are working on the Dragonfly project, one of them spoke to the publication because he/she was “against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people.”

 

“The source said that they had moral and ethical concerns about Google’s role in the censorship, which is being planned by a handful of top executives and managers at the company with no public scrutiny,” Ryan said.

The whistleblower also expressed concern that “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations,” as well and it will be “a big disaster for the information age.”

The news about Google’s new move comes less than a month after Apple’s Chinese data center partner transferred iCloud data, belonging to 130 million Chinese users, to a cloud storage service managed by a state-owned mobile telecom provider.

To comply with Chinese law and work in the mainland China, Apple moved the encryption keys and data of its Chinese iCloud users from its US servers to local servers on Chinese soil earlier this year, despite concerns from human rights activists.

Advertisements

British ex-spies warn of risks dealing with Chinese telecom Huawei

By Europe bureau chief Lisa Millar

Two of Britain’s top cyber security experts have warned against ignoring Huawei, saying banning the Chinese telecommunications giant is not an option for the West.

Robert Hannigan, former director of Britain's intelligence and security organisation GCHQ.

“In the future there will be lots of technologies that we need where the best provider in the world and the best technology is Chinese,” said Robert Hannigan, the former director of Britain’s intelligence and security organisation GCHQ.

“What are we going to do about this?

“Are we going to cut ourselves off from this, or are we going to manage the risk?”

The answer, according to Mr Hannigan and Nigel Inkster — a 30-year veteran of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) — is to accept that with risks come rewards.

“What we need to do is look at this at the broader strategic context of who controls and dominates these technologies at a global level in the 21st century,” Mr Inkster said.

Huawei entered the British market in 2001, and by 2005 had signed off on its first UK contract with BT (formerly British Telecom) as it embarked on a multi-billion-pound upgrade of its network.

“I think those in the intelligence and security community were from the outset aware of the problem that this relationship could cause,” Mr Inkster said.

“But one has to bear in mind that … this was taking place in a different era, we were still in a kind of end-of-history moment.

“There was simply less awareness within government as a whole of these security issues, and frankly less of a disposition to take them particularly seriously.”

The Cell

In 2010, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) was created — otherwise known as The Cell.

In a nondescript brown brick building in an industrial site 90 minutes north of London sits a team of cyber security experts, employed by Huawei and overseen by the British Government.

Positions advertised for the Banbury facility say Huawei is seeking those looking to build a “rewarding career in cyber security”.

Their job is to ensure the integrity of Huawei’s products, which include equipment used across the UK’s fibre-optic network.

It is a model that has been suggested for Australia, to ease concerns about security to the critical national infrastructure.

But the July annual report from the board that oversees The Cell raised concerns, using language not seen in its three previous reports.

“Identification of shortcomings in Huawei’s engineering processes have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks and long-term challenges in mitigation and management,” the report said.

“Due to areas of concern exposed through the proper functioning of the mitigation strategy and associated oversight mechanisms, the oversight board can provide only limited assurance that all risks to UK national security from Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s critical networks have been sufficiently mitigated.”

Its concerns were sent to the British Prime Minister’s national security adviser.

“It looks like a bit of a warning shot has been fired by the UK Government,” Mr Hannigan said, who until last year oversaw the board that issued the report.

“It’s [The Cell] working up to a point, is the way I’d put it.

“The question is, what’s the alternative? Is the alternative banning Huawei better? I don’t think it is actually.”

Huawei welcomed the UK report and the feedback.

“It confirms the collaborative approach adopted by Huawei, the UK Government and operators is working as designed, meeting obligations and providing unique, world-class network integrity assurance through ongoing risk management,” a spokesperson for Huawei told the ABC.

“The report concludes that HCSEC’s operational independence is both robust and effective.”

Huawei insisted it was under more scrutiny than any other telco and The Cell had been proven as the best model for compliance.

The risk

But both Mr Inkster and Mr Hannigan agreed there were risks to dealing with Huawei.

“Huawei has relied very substantially on Chinese Government investment and technological assistance to develop rapidly to the point where they are,” Mr Inkster said.

“And if the Chinese Government ask them to do something, they’re not in the position to refuse.

“The challenge for those who simply want to ban it is, what’s the alternative?” Mr Hannigan reiterated.

“The challenge for those who think they can manage it is — are you kidding yourselves?

“There is simply no magic solution.”

Topics: world-politics, government-and-politics, defence-and-national-security, information-and-communication, science-and-technology, united-kingdom, china