Google backtracks on ‘secretive’ China plan following protest by more than 1,000 employees

Google backtracks on ‘secretive’ China plan following protest by more than 1,000 employees

NEW DELHI: Google chief executive officer (CEO) Sundar Pichai told employees at a meeting that plans to re-enter China with a search engine are “exploratory” and in “early stages”. Earlier, more than a thousand Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s secretive plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.

The letter called on executives to review ethics and transparency at the company.

The letter’s contents were confirmed by a Google employee who helped organise it but who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the debate.

The letter said employees lack the information required “to make ethically informed decisions about our work” and complained that most employees only found out about the project — nicknamed Dragonfly — through media reports.

The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed in protest of Project Maven, a US military contract that Google decided in June not to renew.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin also spoke to the staff Thursday at the company’s all-hands meeting, saying that Google isn’t compromising its principles.

The accounts came from two people familiar with the discussion at the meeting of the Alphabet Inc. unit. They asked not to be identified talking about private matters.

“We are not close to launching a search product in China,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of the meeting provided to news agency Bloomberg. “And whether we would do so or could so is all very unclear, ” Pichai also said.


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