Ritu Jha –
Several Indian American Google employees have openly joined Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly.
The original letter, put together by Amnesty International along with 14 other human rights organizations this August and addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, described concerns about reports that Google is developing a censored search engine app for the Chinese market. The project, codenamed “Dragonfly,” would represent an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights, it said.
According to the Mountain View Patch.com, more than 500 Google employees have come forward early this week, while medium.com published a list of the names of those who signed, which included several Indians.
The employees’ letter states, “We join with Amnesty International in demanding that Google cancel Dragonfly. We also demand that leadership commit to transparency, clear communication, and real accountability. Google is too powerful not to be held accountable. We deserve to know what we’re building and we deserve a say in these significant decisions.”
Silicon Valley based tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa told indica the new technology was intended to address the Chinese government demands to censor free speech and monitor their citizens.
He said, “India is a free country, a democracy where this would not be tolerated. “It is good the Google employees are showing responsibility and holding their leaders responsible. It is about time that employees started speaking up.”
He cited Google’s original motto, “Do no evil” and said that the company is shifting to a model built around profit, not matter the cost, and not about uplifting humanity as originally intended.
“If they [the employees] don’t speak up, they are complicit in the damage that their work is doing. It would be like working for a cigarette maker and pretending that your product does no harm,” he said.
And yet, Wadhwa pointed out the difference between these employees and those at another Silicon Valley behemoth.
“Unlike Google employees, Facebook’s employees have been silent,” he said. “Comparatively, Google is the good company. Facebook bears responsibility for dozens of deaths worldwide because of its product’s defects and its malicious business practices. The United Nations said it was complicit in genocide. How can they live with themselves, being silent about this?”
He pointed out how in 2010 Google publicly exited the search market in China following cyber-attacks against the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and attempts by the Chinese government to “further limit free speech on the web.” He said that in the past decade Chinese government has strengthened its controls over the internet and blocked access to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and thousands of other foreign websites.
According to the Google employees’ letter “Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.”
Human rights organizations believe that the Chinese government extensively violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and Google would be actively participating in those violations for millions of internet users in China.