Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin stated today that the work that Google is doing with the Chinese government is not a national security concern. Secretary Mnuchin also stated that he and President Trump agreed on the matter.
Mnuchin said that “the president and I did diligence on the issue, we’re not aware of any areas where Google is working with the Chinese government in any way that raises concerns.” He also noted that Google is still working with the Department of Defense and that its work with China is “very, very limited”.
Of course, the secretary is referring to Google’s Project Dragonfly. The project that Google was working on to bring its search engine back into China, by cooperating with the Chinese government’s censorship laws.
This became a big deal in the past week, thanks to billionaire investor and Facebook board member, Peter Thiel. He was on stage at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, DC last week, and called for the FBI and CIA to investigate Google’s ties to China. Thiel was specifically going after Google’s work on AI in the country.
That same day that Thiel made a big deal about Google and China, the company confirmed that had killed plans for project Dragonfly. Which effectively makes Mnuchin’s comments today mute, since it’s not an issue any longer. Of course, Google did not mention why it had shelved the Dragonfly project, but there are many reasons why it could have happened.
Dragonfly had been protested by its own employees, saying that it goes against Google’s own motto of “Don’t be evil”. Also stating that Google should not be bowing down to China’s increasing censorship laws, just so that it can have a presence in the country. Google left China in 2010, over its censorship laws. Of course, Google wants a piece of that market, now that growth is starting to stagnate. China is the biggest country in the world, and even just bringing a limited search engine into the country could really drive in a ton of revenue for Google.
However, on the flip side, this is a double-standard from President Trump. Google can work with the Chinese government and it’s not a national security concern, but Huawei (who isn’t working with the Chinese government) working with US companies is a national security concern. It definitely makes Trump and his whole administration look biased. Though we should be used to these flip-flop decisions from President Trump, it’s something he’s done throughout his presidency.
Google killing its project Dragonfly did make many people pretty happy. After all, Google probably didn’t expect to get as much backlash over this project as it actually got. Not only from its employees, but also from Congress. When Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai was testifying in front of Congress last year, he was questioned about Dragonfly, as Congress was worried about what Google might be doing with China and this censored search engine. But it looks like that will no longer be an issue, now that the project is dead.