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posted by martyb on Friday September 14 2018, @09:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the now-searching-for-a-job dept.

Senior Google Scientist Resigns Over "Forfeiture of Our Values" in China

A senior Google research scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.

Jack Poulson worked for Google's research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company's search systems. In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China's authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31.

He told The Intercept in an interview that he believes he is one of about five of the company's employees to resign over Dragonfly. He felt it was his "ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments," he said.

Poulson, who was previously an assistant professor at Stanford University's department of mathematics, said he believed that the China plan had violated Google's artificial intelligence principles, which state that the company will not design or deploy technologies "whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights."

He said that he was concerned not just about the censorship itself, but also the ramifications of hosting customer data on the Chinese mainland, where it would be accessible to Chinese security agencies that are well-known for targeting political activists and journalists.

In his resignation letter, Poulson told his bosses: "Due to my conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies, I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents."

"I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe," he wrote, adding: "There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands."

Are the ~5 resignations indicative of fierce internal opposition or beleaguered acquiescence within Google?

Previously: Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal
Uproar at Google after News of Censored China Search App Breaks

Related: About a Dozen Google Employees Have Resigned Over Project Maven
"Don't be Evil" Disappearing From Google's Code of Conduct
Google Will Not Continue Project Maven After Contract Expires in 2019
Google Boots Open Source Anti-Censorship Tool From Chrome Store


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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @11:08AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @11:08AM (#734773)

    If it's the same guy we're both thinking of, they actually fired him for shitting all over the company message boards. Nothing else.

    Anyway, back on topic...

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by The Mighty Buzzard on Friday September 14 2018, @11:15AM (2 children)

    When you ask someone something and they respond with a well researched and absolutely factually correct answer, you don't get to accuse them of shitting all over the message boards and retain any shred of credibility.

    --
    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
    • (Score: 4, Touché) by khallow on Friday September 14 2018, @11:58AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday September 14 2018, @11:58AM (#734793) Journal
      Well, they had to accuse him of something in order to fire him.
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 17 2018, @10:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 17 2018, @10:16AM (#735911)

      Looks like SN has the same problem.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @02:18PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @02:18PM (#734831)

    Who is shitting over the message boards? The guy who posted his paper, or the sea of haters sending "fuck you!"s or "as a manager, I'll order my subjects to not work with you!"s?

    • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Friday September 14 2018, @05:58PM (1 child)

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Friday September 14 2018, @05:58PM (#734938) Journal

      None of them are appropriate for work.

      Grow the fuck up and get back to work.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @08:08PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @08:08PM (#735023)

        So all of them should have been fired, and not just the one guy?