Sat, Sep 15, 2018 - Page 10 News List

House questions Google’s China plans

DISTRUST:Sixteen US lawmakers queried Alphabet after several high-level employees left the Internet company, which is to testify before a US Senate panel later this month


A bipartisan group of 16 US representatives on Thursday asked Alphabet Inc’s Google if it would comply with China’s Internet censorship and surveillance policies, should it re-enter the Chinese search engine market.

The questioning added to the pressure on Google to disclose what precautions it would take to protect the safety of its users if Beijing regulators allow its search engine to operate in China.

More than 1,000 Google employees, six US senators and at least 14 human rights groups have written to the company expressing concern about its China ambitions.

On Thursday, Jack Poulson, a research scientist who worked for Google for more than two years, said he resigned because he felt the company was not honoring its commitment to human rights norms in designing the search engine.

Poulson told reporters that Google executives would not specify to him where the company would draw the line on agreeing to Chinese demands.

“Unfortunately, the virtually unanimous response over the course of three very vocal weeks of escalation was: ‘I don’t know either,’” Poulson said.

He was among a handful who resigned, he told Web site the Intercept, which first reported on his action.

Google declined to comment directly on the lawmakers’ letter or the resignations, but said in a statement that it has been “investing for many years to help Chinese users” and described its “work on search” for China as “exploratory” and “not close to launching.”

The representatives said in a letter that they had “serious concerns” about the potential step.

The letter asked whether Google would “ensure that individual Chinese citizens or foreigners living in China, including Americans, will not be surveilled or targeted through Google applications.”

Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat, who was among those who signed the letter, wrote on Twitter that “Google should not be helping China crack down on free speech and political dissent.”

Other signers included Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican who chairs the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.

The company could face questions about China when it testifies on privacy issues before a Senate panel on Sept. 26.

House majority leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday said that Google would be invited to testify on a number of issues.

He wrote on Twitter that Google had worked with China and Russia on censorship, but no longer wanted to do a technology deal with the US Department of Defense.

Google’s main search platform has been blocked in China since 2010, but it has been attempting to make new inroads into the world’s largest smartphone market by users.

Google’s re-entry is not guaranteed, as China has stepped up scrutiny of business dealings involving US tech firms, including Facebook Inc and Apple Inc, amid intensifying trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

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