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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: 2) by Lester on Friday September 14 2018, @06:47PM (2 children)

    by Lester (6231) on Friday September 14 2018, @06:47PM (#734959) Journal

    By 1950, When USA decided to develop the H Bomb, Oppenheimer opposed, so Eduard Teller was became the leader of the project. Einstein didn't know about H bomb until Oppenheimer told him. Einstein said "Scientific community must stop this". Openheimer annoyed replied "What Scientific community? H Bomb is Eduard Teller's project, a wonderful challenge. It is his beloved son".

    All that speeches about not using AI for weapons makes me laugh. There will always be enough people, brilliant people, to do it. Whenever there is a new technology, it will be used for military. In fact, it is military who usually push the bleeding edge of every technology.

    The worms are out of the can... as usual.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @07:01PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14 2018, @07:01PM (#734973)

    Ah, what could be []

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by The Mighty Buzzard on Friday September 14 2018, @08:00PM

    by The Mighty Buzzard (18) Subscriber Badge <> on Friday September 14 2018, @08:00PM (#735017) Homepage Journal

    In fact, it is military who usually push the bleeding edge of every technology.

    And the porn industry, yes.

    My rights don't end where your fear begins.