Wednesday, 17 October 2018 02:57

Google's proposed search engine in China wants to identify users with phone numbers

By  Shweta Ganjoo

Source: This article was Published By Shweta Ganjoo - Contributed by Member: Nevena Gojkovic Turunz

It has been over a month since reports of Google working on a tailored version of its search engine for China stormed the internet. A lot has happened since. Employees have resigned and the Mountain View, California based companies has been questioned by the lawmakers in the United States over the project. But so far, the company has remained tight-lipped about the developments. And now a new report about the censored version of its search engine has raised concerns that the company might be on the road to becoming evil after all.

According to a report by The Intercept, Google's project Dragonfly will not only display a censored version of the content in China but it will also link users' searches to their personal phone number, making it easier for the Chinese government to track and monitor its citizens.

Google has already compiled a list of blacklisted keywords in the country. This includes terms such as human rights, Nobel Prize and student protest.

A source familiar with the matter told the publication that the prototype of the search engine in China would link the search app on users' Android smartphones with their phone number. This would make the users susceptible to tracking. In theory, the Chinese government could seek a list of people searching for blacklisted keywords and detain them, which in turn would strengthen the scope of surveillance in the country.

Furthermore, the search engine would be operated as a joint venture with a company based in mainland China and people working with the joint venture would have the capability to update the list of blacklisted terms, which has raised fresh concerns if Google executives in the States would be able to maintain a stronghold over the censorship.

But this is not it as the report suggests that the company would also provide the tailored version of weather report and pollution data in the country. The search platform has reportedly been customised to replace weather and air pollution data with information provided by an unnamed source in Beijing. Reacting to the development, the source has raised concerns that the data could be falsified and that the citizens could be given incorrect information about the amount of toxins in the air.

Meanwhile, the latest development has also raised concerns among the human rights advocates who warn that such a product would lead to a detailed profiling of the people's behavior. "This is very problematic from a privacy point of view because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people's behavior," Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher with Human Rights Watch told the publication.

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