Dragonfly, it seems, is officially dead. Probably.
The controversial Chinese search engine previously in development by Google that raised privacy, censorship, and human rights concerns is finally, officially, no more — at least according to Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president of global government affairs and public policy.
In a July 16 congressional hearing, Bhatia assured Senator Josh Hawley that the project is over.
“Is [Project Dragonfly] active right now?” asked Hawley.
“It’s not, Senator,” replied Bhatia. “We have terminated that.”
This unequivocal response is a departure from previous couched statements by Google executives regarding Dragonfly’s status. For example, in December, chief executive Sundar Pichai told Congress that “right now there are no plans for us to launch a search product in China.”
The “right now” part of that statement did a lot of heavy lifting, leaving open the possibility that work on the project would resume.
We reached out to Google in an attempt to confirm that Dragonfly will not be revived at any point in the future, and a spokesperson pointed us to a pervious statement.
“As we’ve said for many months, we have no plans to launch Search in China and there is no work being undertaken on such a project,” read the statement. “Team members have moved to new projects.”
When pressed for a more concrete statement addressing Bhatia’s comment, the spokesperson merely reiterated the same above quote.
Notably, The Independent reported in March that Google employees suspected work on Dragonfly was ongoing, despite the company’s statements to the contrary. Specifically, Google employees allegedly noticed work was still being done on code “linked” to Dragonfly, and that “Google continues to maintain a budget for the Dragonfly [project].”
Google denied the report at the time.
Assuming Bhatia’s statement today is accurate, the company may have in fact finally listened to its critics. Time will tell.