Google to Close China Search Engine Project

Dragonfly project is closed due to employees' protests
20 December 2018   433

The Intercept site reports that Google abandoned the project called Dragonfly, a search engine for China with the censorship feature. The reason - protests from the Google team responsible for data privacy.

The Intercept found out that Dragonfly’s search algorithm was based on a large database of Chinese user requests that Google collected through 265.com. It is owned by a Google subsidiary registered in Beijing. The site shows news, horoscopes, allows you to search for photos, videos and other resources, however, it does not process requests, but redirects them to Baidu. The company's engineers used the collected data to tune the search algorithm.

Usually, the question of analyzing search queries is considered by the Google team responsible for data privacy. It is necessary that the company does not violate the rights of users. However, employees learned about collecting information through 265.com only after the publication of The Intercept. They went into conflict with the leadership, and after a series of discussions, it was decided to abandon data collection through this resource. According to insiders, this imposed a serious restriction on the developers.

Over the past few weeks, engineers have tried to use data that Google normally collects in other countries. However, requests for Mandarin Chinese people are different from those entered into the search in the same language residents, for example, the United States or Malaysia. This, according to insiders, has made the development of the project virtually impossible.

The publication noted that Google has recently completely transferred several development teams from Dragonfly to products related to other countries.

The closure of the project was hit hard by Google's top managers, including the company's CEO, Sundar Pichai. According to insiders, Pichai put the development of Dragonfly in priority for two years.

Rumors about the Dragonfly project first appeared in August and immediately caused protests from the public and Google employees. Outrage caused a possible change in Google’s freedom of speech policy. In 2013, it left the Chinese market, because the censorship required by the state was contrary to the principles of the company, and after a few years she wanted to return with a finished product fully compliant with Chinese law.

New Vulnerability to be Found in Google+

Due to this vulnerability it was possible to obtain private information of 52.5 million accounts
11 December 2018   386

Google decided to close the social network Google+ not in August 2019, but in April. The reason was another vulnerability in the API, due to which it was possible to obtain private information of 52.5 million accounts. The company plans to close the social network API until mid-March 2019.

By December 10, 2018, the following error information was published:

  • Third-party applications requesting access to profile data, because of the bug in the API, received permission to view information, even if it is hidden by privacy settings;
  • the names of users, their email addresses, information about occupation, age and other confidential information were at risk;
  • passwords, financial data and national identification numbers have not been compromised;
  • the company has no evidence that anyone has exploited the vulnerability;
  • the error was fixed within 6 days: from November 7 to November 13, 2018.
  • Google said it sends notifications to all users affected by the bug.

The previous data leak of Google+ users occurred in October 2018. Then about 500 thousand accounts were compromised. The attackers could get the names, email addresses, age, gender and occupation of users.