Venture capitalist and Facebook board member Peter Thiel was right to draw attention to Google’s dealings in China, former White House cybersecurity chief Richard Clarke said in an interview earlier this week.

Why it matters: Representatives from Silicon Valley and the US government have weighed in on the search giant’s work in China, with US President Donald Trump renewing his offensive against the company this week.

  • Google faces criticism for seeking to expand its presence in China while simultaneously refusing to renew US government defense contracts.
  • The company’s search engine was blocked in China almost 10 years ago, but it still has a significant business and research presence in the country.

“Google refused to work for the Pentagon on artificial intelligence [AI]. If you turn around and you work on AI in China, and you don’t really know what they’re going to do with that, I think there’s an issue.”

—Richard Clarke, Obama-era White House cybersecurity chief told CNBC

Details: Clarke implied that Google’s work in China made it complicit in serving the interests of the country’s government. His comments came after Thiel renewed an ongoing debate about Google’s links to China, calling them “treasonous” and requesting that the FBI and CIA investigate the company.

  • Trump quickly backed Thiel, calling him a “brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone,” and pledged to investigate Google.
  • The company has repeatedly denied the allegations. It told TechNode earlier this week that it does not work with the Chinese military.

Context: A major point of contention is Google’s AI research lab in Beijing. Critics have contrasted its presence in China with its reluctance to engage in AI research for the US government.

  • Google did not renew a contract with the US government to analyze drone footage. The company is also no longer pursuing a cloud computing contract worth $10 billion with the US Department of Defense, saying it does not align with its ethical guidelines.
  • After months of condemnation, a Google executive said on Tuesday it has ceased work on its controversial project to reenter the Chinese search market.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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