Google Has Effectively Shuttered Project Dragonfly, Its Planned Chinese Censored Search Engine

  • Google will likely halt its censored search project for China, according to a report by The Intercept on Monday.
  • Members of the Dragonfly team are said to have been using large data sets pulled from the Beijing-based website 265.com, which Google owns, to help build the censored search product.
  • When Google’s privacy team found out about the use of search data, however, they were reportedly “really pissed” and ultimately decided that the 265.com data could no longer be used.
  • Google had originally planned to launch its censored search engine, known as Dragonfly, between January and April 2019.

The report says that Google decided to shut down an integral data source for the project, and as a result, internal resources have been shifted to focus on products related to other countries, like India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

The news comes almost a week after Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress that “right now, there are no plans to launch a search service in China.”

The likely end of Dragonfly

Work on the controversial project, according to the Intercept, hinged largely on the company’s use of search data it obtained from the Beijing-based website, 265.com — which Google owns. Unbeknownst to Google’s privacy team, members of the Dragonfly team were using large data sets pulled from 265.com to inform and train the censored search product it was building, says the report.

In August, the Intercept broke news of the Dragonfly team using 265.com’s search data, which is typically safeguarded at Google to protect users. According to the new report, the privacy team was “really pissed” to learn of this and after a series of internal meetings, the Dragonfly team was no longer permitted to use 265.com data.

“The 265 data was integral to Dragonfly,” one source told The Intercept. “Access to the data has been suspended now, which has stopped progress.”

Google had originally planned to launch its censored search engine, known as Dragonfly, between January and April 2019, according to reports.

A Google spokesperson reiterated to Business Insider on Monday that the company has no plans to launch a search product in China, but that it still anticipates finding some way to serve that market as a way of fulfilling its corporate mission of making information available to everyone.

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