Search and advertising giant Google faced criticism last week over secretive efforts to reenter China and an erroneous description of how its “Location History” works.
Efforts by the company’s brass to possibly offer a censored search product in China have sparked backlash among Google employees. The New York Times reports:
Hundreds of Google employees, upset at the company’s decision to secretly build a censored version of its search engine for China, have signed a letter demanding more transparency to understand the ethical consequences of their work.
In the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, employees wrote that the project and Google’s apparent willingness to abide by China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.” They added, “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”
A meeting during which top executives were addressing the China issue ended abruptly because someone within the company was feeding information to the New York Times as it happened.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press revelation that several of the companies apps track and store users’ locations, even after those users had turned off “location history,” prompting the company to revise language explaining the issue.
According to the AP:
The AP investigation found that even with Location History turned off, Google stores user location when, for instance, the Google Maps app is opened, or when users conduct Google searches that aren’t related to location. Automated searches of the local weather on some Android phones also store the phone’s whereabouts.
In a Thursday statement to the AP, Google said: “We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers.”
The statement contrasted with a statement Google sent to the AP several days ago that said in part, “We provide clear descriptions of these tools.”