Google to 'shut down plans' for censored Chinese search engine

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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.

Dragonfly, the Google project to develop a search engine that would satisfy China's censorship requirements relies on pre-empting the appearance of search results that the Chinese authorities may find offensive.

As reported in The Intercept on Tuesday, the move is initiated after hundreds of Google employees raised internal complaints that the project had been kept secret from them.

The report found that Google representatives, chipping away at the Dragonfly venture, had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine. 265 is said to be "China's most used homepage" and was purchased by Google in 2008.

The company uses 265.com as a type of clearinghouse for market research, storing information about Chinese users' searches before sending them along to Baidu, a popular search engine in China and one of Google's biggest competitors.

Google's search engine has been blocked in mainland China since early 2010, after the Silicon Valley giant made a decision to stop censoring searches as required by the Chinese government. Google's own privacy team are understood not to have been informed of what was going on. Had to read this to the setting of the Chinese Website 265.com.

However, as one source told the publication, "the 265 data was integral to Dragonfly".

The Dragonfly efforts led to the resignation of several Google employees and prompted more than 700 to sign a letter to Pichai calling for it to be halted last month.

However, there was a catch with Google's idea that proved pretty controversial: the Chinese version of the search engine would have been heavily censored to comply with the country's laws. Under company protocol, reviewing users search queries goes under a pretty tight review process, so that not just anyone can see what you have been searching. Sergey Brin, who was at the helm of Google when the company shut down its China operation in 2010 as a protest, spent his childhood in the former Soviet Union, therefore had first-hand understanding of what censorship is about.

When quizzed by lawmakers on the plans, he said: "Right now, we have no plans to launch in China".

'But right now there are no plans to launch in China. The main benefit of this was that it allowed Google to collect data on what Chinese people tended to search for.

Monday's report comes after Google's CEO told Congress that now the company has no plans to bring search to China.

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