A leaked transcript of an internal meeting at Google reveals the company’s censored search engine for China could launch in as little as three months.
Despite recent public claims that the project, codenamed “Dragonfly,” is merely in an exploratory phase, comments made on July 18 by Ben Gomes, Google’s search engine chief, suggest the product is actually nearing completion.
Published Thursday by The Intercept‘s Ryan Gallagher, who first revealed the existence of Dragonfly in August, the meeting minutes show Gomes hoped at the time to release the product in six to nine months.
Gomes, however, warned that uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration, potentially in regards to its relationship with China, could alter the company’s timeline.
“While we are saying it’s going to be six and nine months [to launch], the world is a very dynamic place,” Gomes said.
The search app, which would both track users and blacklist terms such as “human rights” and “Nobel Prize,” would allow Google to reenter the Chinese market.
Although the tech giant left the country in 2010 after the Chinese government was found to be censoring and hacking its citizens, Gomes’ comments suggest Google is willing to ignore such abuses in order to regain access.
“[W]e are talking about the next billion users,” Gomes said.
News of the controversial project has led to protest both internally and from the outside, as a growing number of leaks shed new light on Dragonfly.
Just last Thursday U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Google to “immediately” cease work on the censored search engine.
“Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,” Pence said during a speech at the Hudson Institute.
US vice president @Mike_Pence just gave a speech in which he called on @Google to "immediately end development of the Dragonfly app that will strengthen the Communist Party's censorship & compromise the privacy of Chinese customers." pic.twitter.com/hUEDre45LB
— Ryan Gallagher (@rj_gallagher) October 4, 2018
The transcript also calls into question remarks made late last month in front of the senate by Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, who claimed the company was “not close to launching a product in China.”
More than 1,400 Google employees as well as 14 human rights organizations have similarly penned letters criticizing the company’s actions in regards to Dragonfly.
Whether continued exposure will derail or result in the end of the project so far remains to be seen.