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Google Shut Out Privacy and Security Teams from Secret China Project (theintercept.com)
364 points by jbegley 53 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 100 comments

My personal conclusions:

- Google can't be trusted on anything to do with building responsible AI (they violated ACM Code of Ethics and their own AI at Google Principles).

- Google has no authority to talk about ethical use of technology and human resources. The main manager responsible for this kerfuffle brands himself as promoting diversity and responsible use of technology.

- Google can't lay claim to being a transparent company, both to its users and outsiders, and to its employees and insiders. Even Larry Page was blissfully unaware of this controversial project that directly goes against his motivations for leaving China in the first place.

- When you go work for Google, you'll have colleagues and managers that won't speak up if they get to work on another unethical project. That will eschew core values for making their stock options grow. That want to build their own empire and positive performance reviews at all cost (even if this costs Google dearly in PR and culture damage).

- Google can't be trusted to be self-regulating, putting the user first, and to clean up any damage done from a top-level ethics violation. There is no objective ethics commission or employee Ombudsman to keep the bulls in check.

- There are more than a few rotten apples in the upper echelons of Google. Perhaps such $$-eyes behavior is rewarded by growing the ranks and internal opposition is seen as a necessary evil to be managed.

- Regardless of all this, most people will still use Google Search & GMail for critical information and gain most of their entertainment and research from YouTube. They will also click on Google ads and watch videos on YouTube without ad-blockers. They'll use Google Fi or Nexus phones, will use Android OS on other hardware, and Chromebooks.

In other words, all of those things you comment on are true but ultimately meaningless. Google is not going to change because the users do not care. They care only about their own lives - when Google harms them, they may make a token effort to move away from the platform, but they'll come back.

Quoting from a book on information risk[0] I'm reading:

"... we have to remember how this form of loss [reputation damage] typically materializes for a commercial company - reduced market share, reduced stock price (if publicly traded), increased cost of capital, and increased cost of acquiring and retaining employees."

Iff we want Google to change, we should figure out a way to translate moral outrage into threatening some of the things mentioned in the quote.


[0] -- Measuring and Managing Information Risk: A FAIR Approach 1st Edition, p. 138.

That sounds like the only way to affect the company would be to become ridiculously rich overnight and work to actively harm them.

not necessarily. Asymmetric warfare works as current geopolitical events show. leaking, doxxing etc are all methods that could (and probably will be) utilized if they don't listen to the good guys within their company.

Not 100% true, but it still tells you something about why big companies don't care that much about what general population thinks of them.

I don’t think people are particularly crazy about google. Google is the default search engine of all major browsers (ie not Edge!), I can only think of one other major video hosting website (dailymotion). And you have to either buy a google powered phone or a $1500 luxury Apple product. And if you started using gmail 10y ago, it’s pretty painful to switch to a new email address, even more so than to switch banks.

The deterioration of their reputation will probably rather cost them in term of regulations and political pressure than market share. Think of what happened to banks. We start seing this hostility to big tech companies in congress and in every other countries.

$750 Apple product. That’s like saying all Android phones are $1249 because you can spend that much on a Samsung: https://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/phones/galaxy-note/galaxy-...

Actually, if you don’t mind going back a couple of generations (and considering that typically Apple gives 5 years support compared to a typical 2-3 for Android manufacturers that’s not awful) then you can happily get an iPhone with a pretty competitive CPU for $450: https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-iphone/iphone-7

> $750 Apple product.

> you can get an iPhone [...] for $450

Way to miss the point :) many Android phones people use over here are several times cheaper. Many people just don't even ever think about buying Apple because of its price.

That's still really expensive.

I make decent money (like most on HN, I assume) and my phone costs under $300, the improvements for phones above $300 are relatively minor besides the camera.

The biggest damage to google in my eyes was the recent redesign of gmail. At this point, I don't interact with anything that they offer anymore outside of search, because they have forced me into using another mail client.

Same with me; it was one of the straws that broke the camels back for me. The redesign was clunky, slow, and loads a dozen iframes in the background. Combined with all the privacy and security issues, I figured I'd just do the switch. Turns out it has been far less painful than I anticipated. Glad to have jumped ship.

Perhaps a company shouldn’t be able to have such a broad reach across so many different mediums.

Where are the fixes? What solutions do you need for Google to put in place? Submitting bugs and knowing what the bug list looks like is one thing.

Once you start thinking/working on that you realize these issues are part of any large org (full of internal competition and ambition) and Google still handles them better than all the others I have worked at.

- A mea culpa. Drop Dragonfly, admit that the way it was managed goes against AI guidelines, have a third party, like ACM evaluate missteps, and show your commitment to thought leadership on responsible use for AI tech in the future. Or stop the hypocritical canvassing (outwards promotion of "do no evil"), scrap or de-emphasize those guidelines (which currently unfairly attract idealist AI researchers).

- Fire Beaumont.

- Make secrecy and shutting out privacy and security teams against process and punish violators. Inform key decision makers, such as Larry Page, of controversial projects, and punish violators. Make lying to/obscuring your employees at an all hands meeting a fireable offence.

- Align incentives and OKRs. Promote and reward core values and those that make it sticky. Protect whistle blowers and conscientious objectors. Periodically review (and have subordinates review) managers and people in key positions, not for the profit or projects they launched, but for creating an inclusive collaborative working environment. Put less focus in hiring for skill and more focus in core value alignment.

- Appoint an employee ombudsman and objective ethics audit team. Give them enough authority, visibility, and power to make changes for the better. Make sure concerns of lower level engineers make it to the top. Make management justify putting profit over user safety.

- Offer a few golden handshakes to people high up in management, that are directly or indirectly responsible for the public erosion of Google's core values. Be wise to the fact that the best and most productive/profitable leaders are also prone to shrewd and unethical behavior, and guard against this.

What is considered responsible AI?

>they violated [...] their own AI at Google Principles

How so?

See "AI Applications We Will Not Pursue" at https://ai.google/principles. The Dragonfly project alone seem to violate 3/4 or 4/4 (depending how you choose to interpret "Weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.").

Is Dragonfly AI? It's a search engine.

Its principle purpose isn't to hurt people, it's to get search results.

Isn't Dragonfly an engine to _filter/censor_ search results? It probably does include AI/ML tech to detect if some content should be censored.

They already have an amazing search engine, I doubt they're building a new one.

Plus, modern search engines are probably heavy users of AI/ML technologies.

I'd like it if you were a bit more specific :).

This will remain a matter of interpretation and, while my reasoning may be sound, your interpretation may differ (much like those employees that pose that designing and developing a censored and spying China search engine app is consistent with "organize the world's information...").

First off, some premises:

- Information Retrieval, Ranking, Spam filtering, etc. are part of AI. Dragonfly applies to these principles.

- Publishing the AI at Google Principles and packaging it the way they did, allows me as an outsider to hold Google accountable to these principles, question their leadership, and critique them if they apparently skirt these principles.

- China's government spying on political dissidents violates international norms on surveillance.

- Google shut out privacy and security teams from evaluating project Dragonfly.

- Shutting out security teams makes it harder to build projects designed and tested for user security.

- Shutting out privacy teams makes it harder to build projects designed and tested for user privacy. Censored search terms are not transparent. You don't control which data of yours get shared with the government.

- Sundar Pichai lied to employees when he said the project was just an innocent proof-of-concept. There was no room for many voices in that conversation, because people lacked moral authority to form an opinion on the matter (they were kept in the dark).

- A fully operational Dragonfly project would make it impossible for Chinese users to use Google to find information about this very controversy (AKA: Google and its behavior itself becomes part of censorship)

- Human Right Organizations were correct in denouncing Dragonfly for its potential to do damage to Human Rights.

- Getting in trouble with the government over search terms that may denote a political preference opposed to the government causes an unjust impact.

- Censored search terms (without showing a notice: "Some results may have been censored it accordance with Chinese law") remove control from humans without any recourse or opportunity for feedback (or choosing another company). By facilitating a censored search engine Google can't point at a government and say: It was entirely their fault.

- A Chinese Google Search Engine which leaks user data to the government is easily adaptable to harmful usage (with little power for Google to push back/notice/monitor once deployed).

- A Chinese Google Search Engine will have significant impact.

- Google is deeply involved, making a custom solution, which enlarges their duties and responsibilities.

- The (user) benefits do not substantially outweight the potential for grave harm

- A censored and spying government-controlled search engine can be viewed as an information warfare weapon.

With these premises in mind, I see them violating all the principles, but one.

Calling a search engine AI seems a little strange.

>violates international norms

The international norm (Microsoft, Apple, every other big company) is to obey China's command.

> Google shut out privacy and security teams from evaluating project Dragonfly.

From the article it sounds like that happened in 2017, before the AI principles existed.

>would make it impossible for Chinese users to use Google to find information about this very controversy

It wouldn't make it impossible, it's already impossible. (Assuming you don't use a VPN.)

> The (user) benefits do not substantially outweight the potential for grave harm

What grave harm would be caused that doesn't already exist?

> Calling a search engine AI seems a little strange.

It's standard in industry. Search is an AI problem.


> The international norm (Microsoft, Apple, every other big company) is to obey China's command.

No that's what companies without AI guidelines do. Violating international norms is when the US, Germany, and Japan would complain when their governments would surveil as much and as invasive as China is doing.

China's surveillance apparatus is NOT the international norm!

> From the article it sounds like that happened in 2017, before the AI principles existed.

Yes. So Sundar Pichai introduced those guidelines, knewing full well that they were dead in the water.

> It wouldn't make it impossible, it's already impossible.

One of the scariest conclusions. Really pause and take it in. How significant is this?

> What grave harm would be caused that doesn't already exist?

This is a weird reasoning for me. It reads to me as similar to: People are going to die anyway, what grave harm would be caused by murdering them by your own hands?

Search is definitely one of the canonical AI applications.

Maybe if the workers had a say instead of only unlimited desire for large sums of capital and power having a say, Google would be in a more trustworthy, ethical, & moral place.

Welcome to reality. The whole "google is ethical" is a mantra they've always said to attract naive programmers like you. The point is for anything unethical but profitable in any way, someone else will end up doing it anyway so why not do it yourself.

Morals only work at the scale of a closed society (be it a full country), not at the scale of the world.

To be fair, once upon a Time they did make the decision to pull out of a very profitable and growing China. And their competitors didn't, they are still there helping evil. Once upon a time, Google genuinely did put values above profit - maybe not perfectly, but certainly with significant and meaningful impact to their business. Once upon a time anyway.

“However, the Dragonfly teams were instructed that they were not permitted to discuss the issue directly with Brin or other members of Google’s senior leadership team, including Pichai, co-founder Larry Page, and legal chief Kent Walker.”

If that’s accurate, I cannot possibly understand why Beaumont is still employed at Google unless the senior leadership team decided intentionally to limit their exposure to the project so they could claim plausible deniability in the case it blew up like it has.

Obviously I’m not on the inside of this story, but from the outside, it’s getting increasingly shameful by the week.

"Please don't bring your concerns to the sort of people who get called to testify under oath before Congress" seems like a very plausible decision for a business to make. Kent Walker is who they send to testify, Sundar Pichai, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin are the people Congress would like to compel to testify.

Presumably the less concerns they're personally aware of, the less they have to answer for.

It's plausible to me that Sergey Brin, who has been fairly peripheral to Google's business side for a long time, may have been kept in the dark since he was the one most against returning to China (and he claimed he didn't know about it at the TGIF). But there's no way the executive team in general wasn't on board with what Beaumont was doing.

> It's plausible to me that Sergey Brin, who has been fairly peripheral to Google's business side for a long time, may have been kept in the dark

compartmentalizing the org structure so that it removes the manager from liability and shifts the blame to a fall-guy is a common theme in organized crime. It is also illegal.

> compartmentalizing the org structure so that it removes the manager from liability and shifts the blame to a fall-guy is a common theme in organized crime. It is also illegal.

There is nothing necessarily "illegal" about an org compartmentalizing information. What is illegal is fraud... one person in an org saying one thing, while others in the same org know that the thing is not true. The other problem with overly compartmentalizing information is not related to legal liability at all: if managers don't know what's going on, good or bad, they can't be trusted by shareholders, which can kill the stock price.

Shareholders generally prefer known challenges than unknown ones.

I would think that "keep me in dark of doing this questionable thing" wouldn't absolve anyone in leadership.

I worked for several years as a data analyst for plaintiffs' firms. I've attended numerous depositions, of both technical people and management. I can't go into specifics, so I'll just say that the apparent compartmentalization was extremely impressive.

Well if Beaumont is still there tomorrow we know our answer.

> If that’s accurate, I cannot possibly understand why Beaumont is still employed at Google

Because he's a sociopath that brings them money. I'm not throwing words out of nothing, you have to be a sociopath in order to take a similar decision only for financial gain, knowing full well that innocent people are going to support the dire consequences (prison time or worse).

After working at Google for 10 years and leaving recently, I'll say one thing: Yonatan Zunger is a highly ethical and honest person, and I am pretty sure what he is saying here is accurate, and if so, it looks like Google's leadership went out of its way to avoid the normal processes that ensure its products are secure and private (Google is very good at privacy, notwithstanding many complaints otherwise).

Although I personally wanted Google to return to China (never wanted it to leave in the first place), I don't have confidence that the team doing this was ethical or honest with the rest of the company, and in a company where employees have a surprisingly large amount of power like Google, that is an unforced error.

What he's saying could be true but misleading.

Avoiding privacy and security review for a product is quite typical pre-launch. All that's important is it gets and passes the review on or before launch day. This product hasn't yet launched, so avoiding or delaying the review makes sense.

It makes even more sense here when the privacy landscape is quickly changing - something that would have been considered acceptable in the past is no longer considered fine.

makomk 52 days ago [flagged]

As someone who's never worked for Google, I recognize the name Yonatan Zunger.

- He's the guy who posted the bizarre and really popular conspiracy theory about the President of the United States secretly plotting a coup: https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/trial-balloon-for-a-coup-e...

- He's the guy who posted this incredibly misleading, and astoundingly viral, tweet about children which ICE seized from their parents being missing and unaccounted for - https://twitter.com/yonatanzunger/status/999827396046995456 - which lead people to believe they'd been ripped from their families and vanished, when they'd actually been reunited with family members who didn't want to be found. This was particularly irresponsible since the fix for this would literally be imprisoning more kids rather than reuniting them with their family members.

- He's the guy who wrote a popular piece opposing the idea of tolerance: https://extranewsfeed.com/tolerance-is-not-a-moral-precept-1...

- I'm pretty sure I caught him posting other dubious misinformation and conspiracy theories too.

The article says that other sources corroborated Zunger's account. That seems more relevant than anything about the man.

"Opposing the idea of tolerance" is an extremely uncharitable way to describe a piece dealing with the paradox of tolerance.

Zunger's description of 1,475 children as "missing and unaccounted for" was prompted by an Arizona Republic article that described them as "lost".[1] He was mistaken about ICE separating those particular children from their parents, but the article wasn't entirely clear about that. There was also still the question of what would happen to the children that ICE did separate from their parents.

[1] https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/ej-montini/201...

While I guess it is pretty commonplace for the paradox of tolerance to be invoked these days as a way to turn intolerance into a virtue by declaring the people we dislike the intolerant ones and claiming we're somehow improving tolerance by hating them, and while taking the most shocking-sounding op-ed any of the uncountable smaller papers on the planet is willing to publish, squeezing any nuance and inconvenient details out of it, juicing it up, and blasting that idea to a global audience it wouldn't otherwise have reached is basically what social media is used for nowadays, I'm still not convinced either of those is a good or moral thing.

Everything you just wrote is completely misleading. As an example, he's against tolerating Nazi's specifically ,not tollerence in general. Your a loser dude, go crawl back into a hole somewhere.

Please stop posting uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments to HN, regardless of how wrong anyone else is.



This comment breaks the site guideline which asks: "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow them when posting here, we'd appreciate it.

Why do the employees seem to not care about this, yet are so vigorous in protesting the scandal with the harassment payout?

Just curious and wanted a former employees view.

Good point, we are talking about dragonfly alot here right now but if we look at the googles themselves, they don't seem to really care compared to the sexual harassment from leadership.

I don't understand why all this outrage is directed at Google but Microsoft gets a free pass.

I'm in China at the moment and if I search Bing.com for "Tiananmen Square massacre" all I get are results about Xi Jinping celebrating martyrs and nothing about what happened.

If you want to be outraged by Google's actions, OK, but it seems selective to me. Microsoft and Google can't be the only ones who do this, either.

The reason it's more upsetting when Google does it is 1)because they advertised they wouldn't. 2) it's hard to get around their products. I don't have to use anything Microsoft anymore, as I switched to the 'more ethical company's a long time ago. Now I need to go on the hunt again, and there is slim competition. I'm not mad at Microsoft because I already departed from them.

Microsoft never claimed to be an honest company.

> Microsoft and Google can't be the only ones who do this, either.

What do you propose? Posting a critical thing about Microsoft, to then talk about how that is unfair Microsoft can't be the only ones who do "this", whatever vague thing "this" may be?

Which comment in this thread would you call "outrage", whom exactly would you accuse of giving Microsoft a free pass, or "being selective"? I'll assume your comment isn't "being outraged about people being outraged", that you are just making a point.

I'd say nobody is or wants to be "outraged", that's just framing comments you're not directly replying to as that. The word has become quite overused for basically anything slightly critical. Let people describe their own internal emotional state as outraged, if they feel that way, but otherwise, it's really just "y u mad" where actual interaction with the argument should be.

Many companies want to use the "masses", the influx of money and bug reports, not to mention statistics and personal data, ML training, the more the merrier, come one come all -- millions, billions of people are welcome to buy the product, click on the ads and all that. But if they have a negative feedback, no matter how valid, then it's suddenly unfair. Then they're all ignorant, entitled, outraged, hipocrites, the whole playbook, and need to be routed around.

But you cannot have it both ways, if you have a channel to peddle product through, blowback can and will travel through that as well. You want to be in the marketplace, be in the marketplace.

Just calling inconvenient criticism outrage, to be done with them, makes them accumulate interest, it doesn't actually turn it into "mere outrage over nothing because people want to be outraged", which could be ignored. But do that enough, and you'll face outrage you fully earned, on top of the still valid criticism.

Another recurring pattern, and that's regardless of company as long as it's big enough, is that so much in the form of speaking for the average user or person, or how something makes business sense. A lot of personal attacks on critics, in an indirect fashion they can't even defend themselves against properly, often by people who will not stand behind their own opinion as their own opinion.

We're not talking about Microsoft here. We are talking about Google.

This sounds like a whataboutism. Harder to be outraged about something which is a status quote for a long time. Difference between MS & Google is that here are talking about an active present change in the wrong direction.

I see your frustration but whataboutism isn't very helpful. you can only target them one at a time as they do ethically questionable shit. I do feel the same outrage though when reading the article and realizing it doesn't also mention all other shitty ad/data driven companies or the trend among start-ups not to question ethics ...

IMO the best we can do is not just to go after companies but really drop the individual responsible managers/engineers names (as this article does, and as stories on FB have done wrt Sheryl Sandberg).

> THE SECRECY SURROUNDING the work was unheard of at Google

Well that's a bit hyperbolic. Of course this kind of secrecy was and has been around google ever since after IPO.

Google+ had a couple floors and even a cafe that you couldn't access unless you were on the team.

The X building (or buildings now?) are inaccessible to anyone not part of X, and X does not interact with the rest of Google^WAlhphabet at all. By design.

I'm sure there are many other, smaller secret passages that insiders are well aware of.

But otherwise, wow this is a pretty damning article. If I can have you recall the recent article about things to ask a startup as an interview candidate, one of my comments was that you should work at a startup if you don't enjoy big company politics. Well, timely enough, here is the exemplar.

> THE SECRECY SURROUNDING the work was unheard of at Google

Well that's a bit hyperbolic. Of course this kind of secrecy was and has been around google ever since after IPO.

The article states that Google’s own internal auditing teams (legal, privacy, and security) were kept in the dark, and this was extremely unusual. Are you saying that it’s normal for Google to keep these teams out of projects?

I cannot imagine a company that willfully keeps its own legal team in the dark about anything, unless it’s leaders intend to commit serious crimes.

Frequently projects are super-secret to begin with, even from legal, privacy etc. That's because they're small projects that are far in the future, but very secret.

Googles TPU designs would be an example. Google didn't want competitors finding out what they were up to.

As the launch date of the product gets closer and closer, restrictions relax. The product will still need to pass legal, privacy, security, management etc. review, but can do that in the few weeks before launch.

The risk of doing all those reviews late is that if they don't pass, major rework might be necessary. The risk of doing the reviews early is leaks are more likley, but also the project might get caught up in political battles between managers, or might get severe scope creep (you can't design your project without it supporting XYZ!).

To be fair Google’s TPU design is mostly a technical thing (I’m not a hardware guy and as such I had to search what it really is) so it’s understandable that Google’s legal team might be left out of it until the later stages of product development. On the other hand Google thinking to launch a censored search engine in China “screams” about needing the assistance of the legal department from the very beginning. I mean, who’s going to guarantee me, as a potential Google engineer working on this project, that I won’t be dragged in front of a Senate committee in 2-3 years’ time for “helping the enemy” or any such thing involving future US - China geo-political shenanigans?

> Are you saying that it’s normal for Google to keep these teams out of projects?

not normal, but not unique.

I know from close sources that the security team involvement around Google Home was actively discouraged and the "launch bit" silently removed. For example.

Google is a very large company with very large politics and perverse incentives. Security is a hindrance for most of the product teams.

Honestly this seems to be the MO for people with power today. The top bankers in the 2008 financial crisis, Trump with the Mueller investigation and now Googles top brass. They all stay a step away from the dirt, even though they all have some amount of culpability to their various misdeeds.

you understand why you where downvoted right? (fyi: not my doing)

Google+ had a couple floors and even a cafe that you couldn't access unless you were on the team

And how did that work out, isolating themselves from everyone who could tell them it was a bad idea? I wonder if all of Google’s cancelled projects are developed in echo chambers, it would explain alot.

Step-1: stop idealizing FAANG employees and their contributions to engineering - they are an insult to our profession. Those we are calling elite (and getting paid like it) should know better.

Writing open letters to Google isn't going to change anything. If you still work for Google in 2018 you are a major part of the problem. The only justification for working at FAANG and not protesting against this is if you are there to actively sabotage the company from the inside.

By all means, stop idealizing. Learn what you can but please don't idealize anyone or any company.

But I hardly think that I or most of my colleagues are an insult to any discipline. Apple, Amazon and Google each has tens of thousands of engineers (and many more folks if you consider other roles). In most companies, there will be parts of the company engaging in behaviour you disagree with.

Expecting people to resign from company X because some people at company X do bad things is a very black and white way to think about the world.

taking sides and not cherry picking the positive contributions to society while turning a blind eye to them aiding foreign regimes in committing crimes¹, is not easy to do. And I mean this in the most sincere way possible.

But in the words of Desmond Tutu, "if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor"

¹ Tracking China’s Muslim Gulag: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/muslims-...

I am afraid that I missed the link where running a business in China is equivalent to turning a blind eye to their human rights abuses.

There is a spectrum between doing nothing and quitting that falls under "not being neutral in situations of injustice". If our only tool for reforming systems (such as countries or companies) is to abandon them, progress would hardly be possible. Tutu understood this and worked hard to enable reconciliation after Apartheid.

What if the only (FB) or almost only (Google) purpose of the company is to do bad things?

> The only justification for working at FAANG and not protesting against this is if you are there to actively sabotage the company from the inside.

Why does Netflix need sabotaging?

Netflix needs it bcoz they are making lots of crappy serial nowadays...quantity != Quality

I find the “Haunting of the Hill House” to be really, really good. Not perfect by any means, but definitely above average. I’ve also heard good things about “Casa del papel” and about some of their documentaries. I personally think they’re the best thing that has happened to us movie-buffs in the last 15-20 years, since HBO first started to broadcast shows like “Oz” and “The Sopranos”.

Though I’m pretty sure they do have their blank spots, too, just wanted to say that there’s also quality in their offer.

A company making content that you don't enjoy isn't some sort of ethical violation.

Where do you suggest they work instead?

Mozilla? Renewable energy? Medical tech?

sure they're amply qualified to find a more satisfying job anywhere else (provided they break their own corporate mental conditioning).

those few who can't see it, can always look for a job in a high-street bookstore. The perks include: free access to all books in the ethics section.

Literally anywhere else.

I can't help but wonder - dragonfly, Maven etc. points to some very sinister, amoral leadership. Has this always been there, or only under the Pichai regime? I remember, for example, that Eric Schmidt was very keen on an absolutist data gathering regime. Perhaps this shift to the dark side has been very long in the making, its egregious examples coming out only now.

Seems to be recent. After all, they did pull out of China to begin with...but that 2010, time flies.

Google Buzz (hmm, wasn't that "wonderfuil" person Zunger involved with that one, too?) is just around that timeframe, and the rollout of that was pretty bad.

The intercept is typically pretty good reporting but is it not pretty obvious that this is a counter intel opp for data gathering? It allows them a massive digital footprint into the region under the guise of "search". The more american tech companies there the higher the potential for spy activities, this is geopolitics 101 and the fact that google shut out its Privacy and Sec. Teams fruther supports this narrative.

Wouldn't it better for Google and the world if they instead worked on new technologies/protocols to bypass censorships?

Or maybe the firewall is airtight.

I for one think Google in China is long overdue

US, EU, Asian and African corporations, universities, institutions, NGOs, (you name it) are happily working and making money in China. This leaves Google without potential income they should have got if they hadn't left China in the first place.

As for the "moral high ground" argument: As long as the US hosts concentration camps for kids, supplies bombs to kill brown people, hunts down trans reporters, and imprisons people like Manning the moral high ground against this is shaky. To put it differently: if you think China's bad, just check out the US.

I might be wrong, but targeting Google (and the rest of the FAANG) began when US Republicans "found out" Silicon Valley is actually Dem. As proof: https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/09/12/leaked-video-googl...

> As for the "moral high ground" argument: As long as the US hosts concentration camps for kids....

Please stop this Red Team/Blue Team tendency. It's both binary thinking and a Red Herring. It has zero to do with the subject at hand, which is whether a search engine should collaborate with a government to censor, suppress, find, and punish dissidents or even the mildly curious.

As for moral highground, it's worth pointing out that more than a dozen human rights organizations have come out against this project.

What qualifies in your opinion as moral high ground?

Breitbart as proof for anything? Lol, you are funny dude.

Is an important part of product design not to get into the mindset of the customer? Seems that they did that just splendidly here.

This "don't be evil" thing keeps nagging though. They might want to be a bit more public about its deprecation: https://gizmodo.com/google-removes-nearly-all-mentions-of-do...

I would not participate in the project, but isn’t it fairly simple to build a censored search engine while punting all moral responsibility for that censorship to the Chinese Government?

Simply build your index by crawling from machines inside the great firewall. Whatever gets indexed gets indexed; that’s up to the Great Firewall overlords.

Hiding search metadata from the CCP is another thing entirely I suppose, but do-able if allowed by the regime (simply don’t log anything).

In order to boycott Google I guess I need to switch from Gmail and use duck duck go? Doesn't seem too daunting

Time to invest.

Sin stocks always go high.

This is actually a pretty solid business decision, as they are not going to need either security nor privacy on that project.

I see what you did there. ::Slowly claps::

At this point maybe the best way for Google leadership to restore trust (at least among employees) would be to make Yonatan Zunger the CEO.

Do they really need it, the trust among employers? Other companies don't, take Amazon or Oracle for example, and they are doing pretty well.

It's not a question with a yes or no answer. Employee morale can be better or worse, and different for different teams. The whole notion is just a vague average. Arguably it's more important at Google to the extent that they attracted idealists.

Does apple really need to make the quality and innovative products they've been know for? No, and they have a lot of money to survive for a long time even with completely incompetent leadership. But would giving up the company's core values that be the best thing to do for apple? Probably not.

Give this a watch and then ask yourself "why" would people still go out of their way to support Google as a company and its products.

There is a difference.

Apple is selling their products in the top market segment, where consumers are usually consider an image, associated with the vendor and the products, as a big part of what they pay premium for. This works in many ways, an image of ethical vendor - in so many ways, from labour conditions for its' workers to support for Greenpeace and the attitude toward selling the customer's data - and an image of themselves, using the premium products, therefore being successful people, and all that. This model needs passionate consumers who support Apple and its products.

Google is not targeting the top market segment only. People buy Android smartphones and use Google services because it works well for them, and they do not want to pay the premium for an image, and basically do not care about an image associated with the vendor. This model does not need passionate consumers who support Google and its products.

Your theory is not supported by reality though. Apple's Chinese iCloud operations are now run by a government owned company (GCBD). Apple simply handed over the keys to them in order to "improve iCloud services in China and comply with Chinese regulations" (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208351).

From the terms of service:

"You understand and agree that Apple and GCBD will have access to all data that you store on this service"


All major tech companies take the same approach to China: "We comply with local laws and regulations". Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.

Not all employees are concerned, only some of them. I think Google employees might find that they aren't that important in the company's agenda, however loud they are.

they are definitely losing trust among EU customers as well


Please stop posting uncivil and/or flamewar comments to HN.


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