Google may still be working on Project Dragonfly

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Google's controversial Chinese search product may still actually be in development according to a group of employees who carried out their own investigation into the matter.

Late last year, the company moved engineers away from working on Project Dragonfly and said that there were no current plans to launch it. However, a small group of employees was unsatisfied with this answer from Google's leadership and decided to track the project's progress themselves.

According to The Intercept, the group discovered that a batch of code associated with the Chinese search engine was still being updated even after the company had claimed it shut down the project.

Project Dragonfly led to a public uproar both within and outside of Google that led employees to protest against its plans to launch the search engine. This internal dispute eventually led the company to stop development of the project which was slated for release between January and April of this year.

Continued development

In mid-December of last year, Google's Caesar Sengupta, who held a leadership role on Project Dragonfly, told engineers and other employees working on the Chinese search product that they would be given new projects to work on instead. Sources with knowledge of the project said that staff were instructed to finish up the jobs they were doing before moving onto their next assignments.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai tried to downplay the project's implications and even went so far as to call it “an experiment” which led a group of concerned employees, not involved directly with Dragonfly, to monitor the company's internal systems for information about the project.

The employees have been closely watching repositories of code stored on Google's servers which they say is linked to Dragonfly. The code itself was created for two smartphone search apps codenamed Maotai and Longfei that Google intended to roll out to Chinese Android and iOS users.

The employees identified around 500 changes to the code in December and over 400 changes between January and February of this year. They believe that this shows that development of Project Dragonfly has continued though some say that these changes could be attributed to employees wrapping up their work on the project.

Google has not given a definite answer on Project Dragonfly and it seems that the company might be waiting for the controversy to die down before launching its Chinese search product in the future. 

Via The Intercept

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Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.