What happened: Google has been forced to shut down a data analysis system it was using to develop a search engine for China after members of the company’s privacy team filed internal complaints about being kept in the dark about the project. The company had been using the Beijing-based website 265.com to learn about Chinese internet users and develop blacklists to accommodate China’s stringent rules, which is critical to the development of the search engine, dubbed Project Dragonfly. Google engineers no longer have access to 265.com’s data, which has ended Project Dragonfly for the time being.
Why it’s important: The US search giant has received mounting criticism for its plans to relaunch its search engine in China, with the date initially set for between January and April 2019. In August, more than 1,400 employees signed a petition criticizing the lack of transparency around the project. In November, more than 200 Google employees issued an open letter to the company demanding it halt the project. Dragonfly has been one of the top priorities for Google’s top executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, despite resistance from employees. The filtered version of Google search would require real-name verification of users and data would be shared with a Chinese partner.