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Sen. Cruz to Google Chief Privacy Officer: Is There A Project Dragonfly?

Directs line of questioning to Google Chief Privacy Officer on a secret Google project for mainland China

October 1, 2018

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation participated in a hearing last week focused on how leading technology companies handle American consumers’ privacy and security. During the hearing, Sen. Cruz questioned Keith Enright, Google’s Chief Privacy Officer, to uncover the truth regarding Google’s ‘Project Dragonfly,’ which has been reported in the press to be a search engine designed to censor search results at the demands of the Chinese government. 

“After a cyberattack compromised the Gmail accounts of dozens of Chinese human rights advocates, Google decided in March of 2010 to shut down its operations in China,” Sen. Cruz said. “At the time Google released a statement that said quote: ‘We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.’ Despite taking this principled stand in 2010, it’s been reported last month that Google has been secretly developing a search engine for China as part of a project known as ‘Dragonfly.’ Are those reports accurate?”

Several news outlets covered Sen. Cruz’s line of questioning at the hearing. Selected new coverage is below:

WIRED: Congress Challenges Google On China. Google Falls Short

“Google’s first public attempt to explain its reported interest in entering the Chinese market failed to appease critical members of Congress at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday. […] Google’s chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, came to the hearing prepared to give a carefully scripted explanation addressing these reports, remarks that would neither confirm nor deny their accuracy. […] Enright repeated the term ‘not close to launching’ several more times throughout the hearing, before Senator Ted Cruz of Texas finally stopped him short. ‘You’re saying you’re not close to launching. I’m asking [...] is [Project Dragonfly] a project to develop a search engine in China? I didn’t ask timing of launch. I asked what it is,’ the Republican said. Enright only went so far as to confirm that Project Dragonfly does in fact exist. But he declined to expound upon its purpose, insisting he was ‘not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project.’ That, of course, is the problem. It’s not just that Enright came off as cagey. The far bigger issue is that his claims about taking privacy seriously and not knowing much about the project can't peacefully coexist. If Google's chief privacy officer isn't actively engaged in these conversations, it undermines the idea that Google is carefully considering the ramifications of this work.”

BBC News: (VIDEO) Google’s privacy chief quizzed on China plan by Ted Cruz

“Google's privacy chief has confirmed that work on Project Dragonfly is ongoing but has denied that the firm is close to launching a search engine in China as a result. Keith Enright was quizzed about the effort by Senator Ted Cruz towards the end of a Senate Committee hearing into data privacy. Leaks about the effort have raised concerns that the tech firm might help the Chinese state censor its citizens' online activities, with Google's own employees among those to have raised concern.”

Venture Beat: Google confirms Dragonfly project in Senate hearing, dodges questions on China plans

“During a Wednesday Senate hearing, Google’s chief privacy officer Keith Enright confirmed that the company has a project codenamed Dragonfly — reported to be a censored search engine that’s being prepared to launch in China — but didn’t say what the project covers. ‘I am not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project,’ Enright said in response to a question from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). It appears to be the first time that someone from Google has confirmed that the company has a project codenamed Dragonfly, after nearly two months of speculation about it. […] Senator Cruz also asked Enright if ‘in your opinion, does China engage in censoring its citizens,’ to which Enright responded, ‘As the privacy representative for Google, I’m not sure that I have an informed opinion on that question.’”

CNN Tech: Google grilled over 'Project Dragonfly' at Senate hearing on data privacy

“Google has finally admitted that a ‘Project Dragonfly’ is indeed in the works. But that's about all a Google executive was willing to divulge Wednesday about the codenamed plan, which has been widely reported to be a search product the company is developing for China — one that would need to comply with government censorship. […] Enright did not link ‘Dragonfly’ to the reports about developing a Chinese search engine. He name-dropped it only when pressed about the existence of a ‘Project Dragonfly’ by Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican. ‘I am not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project,’ Enright added. When Cruz prodded Enright for more information, the privacy officer would only reiterate what CEO Sundar Pichai has already said about the rumored product.”

The Wall Street Journal: Tech Executives Warn of Overregulation in Privacy Push

“Google, which was chided by senators when it declined to appear at a hearing earlier this month, also was grilled Wednesday on the company’s reported plans to develop a search engine adhering to China’s internet censors. […] Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) pressed Mr. Enright on whether there is any truth to reports that the China project, known internally as ‘Project Dragonfly,’ is working towards developing a censored search engine. ‘There is a Project Dragonfly,’ Mr. Enright said. ‘My understanding is that we are not close to launching a search product in China and whether we eventually would or could remains unclear.’”

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