Christian Stewart is a privacy researcher and reporter. Follow his latest coverage on YouTube.
I’ve written a couple of these stories before, unfortunately. But here it goes again.
So this week’s issue with Google is related to the Part 1 in this series: Project Dragonfly — Google’s search engine for China. The Verge and The Intercept both reported a few days ago that Google’s China prototype “links searches to phone numbers.”
This feature is intended to make it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s searches.
“This is very problematic from a privacy point of view, because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people’s behavior,” said Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Another issue that came up is that the search engine has been designed to replace weather and air pollution data with specific information from an unnamed source in Beijing. The Chinese government has a past of presenting manipulated and false details about the pollution levels in its cities.
Google linking searches to user phone numbers in China comes shortly after news came out that Google was collecting Android user location data without consent. Because Google tracks so much information from so many people, trust and transparency are very important.
Another story in The Intercept reported that a senior Google research scientist has resigned in protest of the company’s decision to launch a censored search engine in China. There are other reports of other employees leaving Google as a result of “Project Dragonfly”.
If Google is willing to bend its standards and data practices for the Chinese government, where else are they crossing ethical boundaries?
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