Google's plans for a Chinese search and news service, known internally as Dragonfly, continue to leak and create controversy. In August, it was revealed that Google would soon reenter the Chinese marketplace, which Google CEO Sundar Pichai denied, calling it "an exploration stage." Then on Sept. 14th, it was reported that Google would track users using their phone number.
Now a new memo gives further details regarding the extent of Dragonfly's tracking. The memo was created and circulated internally by an engineer who was asked to work on the project. It details the methods in which Dragonfly tracks a user, first by requiring them to log in. After signing in, all web searches, IP address, location information, and even links clicked on will be logged. While this information detailing a user's online activity will be stored on servers in Taiwan, it will also be available to an unnamed partner in Beijing.
The Dragonfly Project was already designed to censor search queries, but the memo notes it is even more complex, stating that the unnamed Chinese partner could add to the blacklist and “selectively edit search result pages … unilaterally, and with few controls seemingly in place.”
The Dragonfly memo has caused rage among the higher-ups because it was shared with employees who should not have known about the secret project. Google Human Resources has emailed employees suspected to have received the memo, directing them to delete it from their computers. These email demands include “pixel trackers” which notify the Human Resources department that they have been read.
- The Intercept