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Google Dragonfly links phone numbers to search results

File photo: Everyone in China with the help of Dragonfly, their personal phone number linked to the search, The Intercept reports.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Google is not doing a very good job of not bad at the moment. That is mainly due to the revelation back in August was the development of a censored search engine for China, called Dragonfly. But it turns out the Dragonfly is not only censored, it makes tracking individuals much easier for the Chinese government.

Dragonfly is only a prototype at the moment, but one that has caused ethical concerns, employee protests, and even one of Google’s senior researchers to resign. If launched, the determination of the Chinese government censorship rules, and remove the search results that used terms considered unsuitable for the public. It doesn’t stop there, though.

 

As The Intercept reports, Dragonfly is thought to go a step further than just the censoring of search results. Anyone in China with the help of Dragonfly, their personal phone number linked to the search. In theory, that means that if a blacklisted word is searched, Dragonfly, that would be a record not only of the search, but the phone used to make it. The Chinese authorities would then choose to follow-up or active monitoring of the individual more closely if they wished to.

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Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “This is very problematic from a privacy perspective, because it allows much more detailed tracking and profiling the behavior of people … the Link to search for a phone number, is it much harder for people to avoid the type of overreaching government surveillance that is ubiquitous in China.”

Although Dragonfly is a service of Google, using the search-tech, Google wouldn’t be performing the service. In place of the more usual practice of working with a Chinese partner company would be used. That company would be tasked with ensuring a Dragonfly continued to follow the directives of the government and the latest blacklists. It is also of the opinion that the search results with regard to the weather and air pollution will be provided by “an unnamed source in Beijing.”

It is logical that every company would work hard to establish a presence in China, but the PR nightmare this is turning into for Google seems hardly worth the trouble.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.

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