NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden joined human rights organizations in urging Google on Monday to end its controversial work in China, warning that it would be complicit in facilitating state-sponsored censorship in an open letter addressed to the search giant.
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“Facilitating Chinese authorities’ access to personal data, as described in media reports, would be particularly reckless,” the letter said. “If such features were launched, there is a real risk that Google would directly assist the Chinese government in arresting or imprisoning people simply for expressing their views online, making the company complicit in human rights violations.”
The letter, which has 71 signatures, most of them from human rights organizations, was released the day before Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified on Capitol Hill. It called on Google to terminate an initiative known as ‘Project Dragonfly”, which the co-authors said would actively aid “China’s censorship and surveillance regime.”
“We urge Google to heed concerns from its own employees and from organizations and individuals across the political spectrum by abandoning Project Dragonfly and reaffirming its commitment not to provide censored search services in China,” they wrote.
The project is reportedly one of Pichai’s principle objectives, according to Bloomberg. China is the world’s largest internet market with more than 800 million users.
Google could not immediately be reached for comment.
At the end of November, at least 10 Google employees similarly penned a letter asking the company to terminate the project, which they lambasted as a “censored search engine.”
“Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” the employees wrote. “Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.”