Vice president says Dragonfly app would ‘strengthen Communist Party censorship’
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Google Thursday to end its development of a Chinese search engine that would track users and censor content.
While delivering a speech at the Hudson Institute, Pence argued Google should follow the lead of other companies who refuse to enter the Chinese market “if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing’s oppression.”
“For example,” Pence said, “Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.”
The secretive project, first revealed by The Intercept last month, would allow Google to reenter the Chinese market after initially pulling its services in 2010 due to attempted hacks and censorship of users by the Communist government.
A prototype of the app reportedly blacklists terms including “Nobel prize,” “human rights” and “student protest” and would also track the location of users.
After declining to publicly comment on the project for weeks, Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, confirmed the project’s existence during a hearing in front of the Senate late last month.
Enright, however, denied having detailed knowledge of the app and claimed it was not nearing completion.
“I am not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project,” Enright said. “But I can say that if we were close to launching a search project 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.”
Google appears to be going forward with the project despite receiving a letter from 1,400 Google employees as well as 14 human rights organizations demanding the company reverse its decision.
Former Google research scientist Jack Poulson also came forward last month to reveal his resignation from the company in protest of Dragonfly.
“Due to my conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies, I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents,” Poulson wrote in his resignation letter to Google. “I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe.”
Pence’s comments come amid escalating tensions between D.C. and Beijing over numerous issues including trade and espionage.
A report in Bloomberg Thursday also claimed that China has “compromised America’s technology supply chain” by embedding secret chips inside Amazon and Apple products.