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Google employees protest secret work on censored search engine for China • The New York Times
Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi:
<p>Hundreds of Google employees, upset at the company’s decision to secretly build a censored version of its search engine for China, have signed a letter demanding more transparency to understand the ethical consequences of their work.

In the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, employees wrote that the project and Google’s apparent willingness to abide by China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.” They added, “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”

The letter is circulating on Google’s internal communication systems and is signed by about 1,000 employees, according to two people familiar with the document, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The protest presents another obstacle for Google’s potential return to China eight years after the company publicly withdrew from the country in protest of censorship and government hacking. China has the world’s largest internet audience but has frustrated American tech giants with content restrictions or outright blockages of services including Facebook and Instagram.</p>
google  china 
1 hour ago by charlesarthur
From laboratory in far west, China's surveillance state spreads quietly • Reuters
Cate Cadell:
<p>Filip Liu, a 31-year-old software developer from Beijing, was traveling in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang when he was pulled to one side by police as he got off a bus.

The officers took Liu’s iPhone, hooked it up to a handheld device that looked like a laptop and told him they were “checking his phone for illegal information”.

Liu’s experience in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, is not uncommon in a region that has been wracked by separatist violence and a crackdown by security forces.

But such surveillance technologies, tested out in the laboratory of Xinjiang, are now quietly spreading across China.

Government procurement documents collected by Reuters and rare insights from officials show the technology Liu encountered in Xinjiang is encroaching into cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

Police stations in almost every province have sought to buy the data-extraction devices for smartphones since the beginning of 2016, coinciding with a sharp rise in spending on internal security and a crackdown on dissent, the data show.

The documents provide a rare glimpse into the numbers behind China’s push to arm security forces with high-tech monitoring tools as the government clamps down on dissent…

…These sorts of scanners are used in countries like the United States but they remain contentious and security forces need to go through a lengthy legal process to be able to forcibly break into a suspect’s phone.

In China, while a number of firms say they have the ability to crack many phones, police are generally able to get users to hand over their passwords, experts say.</p>

It's very intrusive, but of course there's no way for people to protest effectively. It's claimed that it can break into iPhones - which of course you can if you get the passcode.
china  surveillance 
1 hour ago by charlesarthur
Google China censorship project named after co-founder Sergey Brin's luxury yacht? • Ryan Gallagher
Gallagher, who writes at The Intercept, with some "cutting-room details" from his other stories on Google's China project; it turns out that Sergey Brin has a 240ft, $80m yacht named "Dragonfly" - the same as the China project:
<p>After Google pulled its search engine out of China in 2010, Brin said of the Chinese government: “In some aspects of their policy, particularly with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents, I see the same earmarks of totalitarianism, and I find that personally quite troubling."

It’s clear Brin was at the time genuinely uncomfortable with the censorship – he didn't just say what he did for public relations reasons. I have heard this from several people inside the company who spent years working with him. He took a principled stand and had arguments with colleagues over the issue.

In recent years, Brin has taken a more hands-off role at Google. Since 2015, CEO Sundar Pichai has taken the helm, and he has steered the company’s policy on China. But Brin still serves on Google’s board of directors, and would surely have been briefed on the search engine plans, given their importance for Google both politically and strategically. So did Brin change his mind about the censorship? Was he simply outvoted by his colleagues on the issue?

More to the point at hand, why was the Chinese censorship project given the same name as Brin’s yacht? Is it possible somebody inside Google is trying to troll Brin, knowing that he has in the past spoken out against the Chinese government censorship? Or was Brin himself involved in giving the project this name, indicating that he has changed his views?</p>

I'd suspect it's a form of trolling; that it's people trying to annoy Brin, for whatever reason.
dragonfly  google  china 
1 hour ago by charlesarthur
Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship is “Moral and Ethical” Crisis
In the latest development in the controversy surrounding Google's planned Chinese censor-friendly search engine, employees of the tech giant are circulating a letter "calling for Google’s leadership to recognize that there is a 'code yellow' situation – a kind of internal alert that signifies a crisis is unfolding," Ryan Gallagher writes for The Intercept. In the letter, employees express the need for "more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building."

Gallagher writes: "The letter suggests that the Dragonfly initiative violates an internal Google artificial intelligence ethical code, which says that the company will not build or deploy technologies 'whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights'...The letter goes on to demand 'an ethics review that includes rank and file employee representatives,' the appointment of an ombudsperson to oversee the process, a plan for more transparency to be instituted across the company so that employees can make ethical choices about what they choose to work on, and 'ethical test cases' assessing the Chinese censorship plans...Google’s leadership has still not spoken to employees about Dragonfly, according to the sources...The silence from Google bosses appears to have fueled anger within the company. Discussion has raged among Google employees, with some questioning their managers, only to be told that details about Dragonfly cannot be shared."

- The letter is signed by "about 1,000 employees," according to the New York Times.

- Other China-related news: Reuters reports (citing government procurement documents) on how China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region acts as a "laboratory" of surveillance technology, which then spreads east into the country's biggest, most populous cities. "The data Reuters analyzed includes requests [for 'hand-held devices allow police to quickly check the content of phones on the street'] from 171 police stations across 32 out of 33 official mainland provinces, regions and municipalities, and appears to show only a portion of total spending."
otf  china  google  xinjiang  uyghur  censorship  access  asia  gfw  search 
2 hours ago by dmcdev
Xi Jinping Thought Is Facing a Harsh Reality Check – Foreign Policy
an enormous amount of time must now be devoted to genuflecting before Xi Jinping thought. Centers for the study of Xi Jinping thought are opening on campuses across the country, and research on Xi Jinping thought was the No. 1 “hot research topic” of 2017
china  xjp 
12 hours ago by yorksranter
Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents – Foreign Policy
the interim system and the main covert communication platform used in China at this time were supposed to be clearly separated. In theory, if the interim system were discovered or turned over to Chinese intelligence, people using the main system would still be protected—and there would be no way to trace the communication back to the CIA. But the CIA’s interim system contained a technical error: It connected back architecturally to the CIA’s main covert communications platform
crypto  cia  spook  security  china 
12 hours ago by yorksranter

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