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Trump ‘will take a look’ after Peter Thiel says Google ‘should be investigated for treason’


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Donald Trump said Tuesday that his administration will investigate a claim from the billionaire founder of PayPal that Google has been infiltrated by China.

Tech investor Peter Thiel, 51, made the comments during a speech at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington.

‘Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government,’ Trump wrote on Twitter, quoting a segment on ‘Fox & Friends.’

The president pronounced Thiel ‘[a] great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone!’

‘The Trump Administration will take a look!’ he added.

Thiel, a Facebook board member who supported Trump in 2016 and spoke at the Republican National Convention, had slammed Google for working with the Chinese military while refusing to renew a contract with the Pentagon. He suggested Google’s actions were ‘seemingly treasonous.’

Billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel, 51, called on the FBI and CIA to investigate whether Google has been infiltrated by China

Thiel is the biggest supporter of Donald Trump in Silicon Valley and donated to his campaign

Thiel is the biggest supporter of Donald Trump in Silicon Valley and donated to his campaign

Thiel also said American agencies should ask Google three questions to determine whether it had been infilitrated by Chinese intelligence services. 

‘Number one: How many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI (artificial intelligence)?

‘Number two: Does Google’s senior management consider itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence? 

‘Number three: Is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military.’

Thiel is the most high-profile supporter of the Trump administration in Silicon Valley. 

He contributed $250,000 to the Trump Victory Committee in October and was involved in the transition following the President’s election victory.

Thiel, who spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, hadn’t made a donation to the committee since the 2016 election. 

The billionaire also praised Trump’s foreign policy on Sunday, in particular his trade efforts in China, which he termed a ‘signature achievement’ of the administration. Thiel suggested the 25% tariff on Chinese goods should be thought of ‘as a floor and not a ceiling.’ 

Thiel said that American agencies should ask Google three questions, to determine whether it had been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence services

Thiel said that American agencies should ask Google three questions, to determine whether it had been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence services 

Google has faced criticism for its work on the controversial ‘Project Dragonfly’, a censored search engine for China.

The company admitted last year it had been looking at options to build a specialist search engine in China, but that it had no plans to launch it.

The firm said it had ‘effectively ended’ the project, with CEO Sundar Pichai assuring US Congress in December that it had ‘no plans’ to release the software.

Who is PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel?

Peter Thiel, 51, is an American entrepreneur and co-founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies and Founders Fund. 

He has a net worth of $2.2 billion, and was 328th on the Forbes 400 in 2018, with a net worth of $2.5 billion.

Thiel was born in Frankfurt. 

He moved with his family to the United States as an infant, and spent a portion of his upbringing in South Africa and Namibia before returning to the United States.

Thiel became Facebook’s first outside investor when he acquired a 10.2 per cent stake for $500,000 in August 2004. 

He sold the majority of his shares in Facebook for over $1 billion in 2012, but remains on the board of directors.

Thiel is seen as Donald Trump’s biggest supporter in Silicon Valley. 

During the 2016 election campaign, he came out in support of Trump, to the surprise of many, and gave him legitimacy in Silicon Valley. 

He contributed $250,000 to the Trump Victory Committee in October and was involved in the transition following the President’s election victory.

Thiel, who spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, hadn’t made a donation to the committee since the 2016 election. 

However, allegations from insiders at Google claim they have discovered hundreds of code changes on the project in the last few months.

This suggests that the project is still being worked on in secret. 

Google employees who looked into the latest status of Project Dragonfly claim that budgets for the project still contained 100 personnel names.

Around 500 alterations to the code used on the project were made in December, followed by 400 more at the start of this year, company insiders say.

Google was forced to climb down from its plans for Dragonfly, after revelations about the project drew fierce criticism and pressure from its employees.

Any search engine that operates in China would have to comply with the country’s strict censorship policies.

Google pulled out of China in 2010 due to the firm’s unwillingness to submit to these restrictions.

The firm’s search engine and mail services remain blocked in mainland China along with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Chinese internet users have to resort to a variety of technological tricks to try to circumvent the ‘Great Firewall of China’, as the restrictions have been dubbed.

The existence of Project Dragonfly was first revealed in August 2018, when members of Google’s privacy team raised concerns about the project.

Google said it was simply an effort to size up options for potentially re-entering the country.

Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, told a Senate committee hearing in September 2018 that ‘any relaunch in China would be ‘consistent with our values in privacy and data protection’.

In December Sundar Pichai told a US Congressional panel that while the project had more than 100 people working on it at its height, the company had no plans to launch in China.

Mr Pichai said: ‘Right now there are no plans for us to launch a search product in China… to the extent we approach a position like that, I will be fully transparent, including with policy makers here, and engage and consult widely.’

CEO Sundar Pichai assuring US Congress in December that it had 'no plans' to release its controversial Chinese search engine

CEO Sundar Pichai assuring US Congress in December that it had ‘no plans’ to release its controversial Chinese search engine

WHAT IS GOOGLE’S ‘PROJECT DRAGONFLY’ SEARCH ENGINE?

‘Dragonfly’ is a rumoured effort inside Google to develop a search engine for China that would censor certain terms and news outlets, among other things.

Reports claim the tool ties users’ Google searches to their personal phone numbers to help the Chinese government monitor its citizens.

Outside of high-profile leaks, few details have emerged on what the search engine entails as Google has kept tight-lipped on the project.

A former Google employee warned of the web giant’s ‘disturbing’ plans in a letter sent to the US’s senate’s commerce committee in August 2018.

Jack Poulson said the proposed Dragonfly website was ‘tailored to the censorship and surveillance demands of the Chinese government’.

In his letter he also claimed that discussion of the plans among Google employees had been ‘increasingly stifled’.

Mr Poulson was a senior research scientist at Google until he resigned in July 2018 in protest at the Dragonfly proposals.

More than a thousand Google employees protested the project, writing a blog titled ‘We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.’

But there was also sharp divisions within Google as 500 employees penned an alternative letter saying the firm should move ahead with controversial Chinese search engine.

The letter claimed that Dragonfly was ‘well aligned with Google’s mission’.

‘China has the largest number of Internet users of all countries in the world, and yet, most of Google’s services are unavailable in China,’ the letter read.

‘This situation heavily contradicts our mission ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’.’

Later reports claimed that Google had ‘effectively ended’ the entire project.

Meanwhile, Google decided not to renew a contract with the US military in June 2018 over Project Maven.

The project was a collaboration between Google and the US military to use its AI to control drones destined for enemy territory.

It came following protest resignations from some employees. 

More than 3,000 Google employees signed a petition in protest against the company’s involvement with the U.S. Department of Defense artificial intelligence (AI) project. 

In an open letter addressed to CEO Pichai, Google employees said they were concerned that the US military could weaponize AI and apply the technology towards refining drone strikes and other kinds of lethal attacks.

‘We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,’ the letter said, before explaining that Google’s involvement in Project Maven stands to damage its brand and its trust among the public.

WHAT ARE SOME OF GOOGLE’S PAST CONTROVERSIES?

March 2019: Google refused to scrap a Saudi government app which lets men track and control women.

The tech giant says that software allowing men to keep tabs on women meets all of its terms and conditions. 

October 2018: A software bug in Google+ meant that the personal information of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of users was exposed. The issue reportedly affected users on the site between 2015 and March 2018.

The bug allowed app developers to access information like names, email addresses, occupation, gender and more.

Google announced it would be shutting down the Google+ social network permanently, partly as a result of the bug. 

It also announced other security features that meant apps would be required to inform users what data they will have access to. Users have to provide ‘explicit permission’ in order for them to gain access to it.  

August 2018: A new investigation led by the Associated Press found that some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking – even when Location History has been paused.

The investigation found that the following functions were enabled by default: 

  • The Maps app storing a snapshot of where the user is when it is open
  • Automatic weather updates on Android phones pinpointing to where the user is each time the forecast is refreshed  
  • Simple searchers, such as ‘chocolate chip cookies,’ or ‘kids science kits,’ tagging the user’s precise latitude and longitude – accurate to the square foot – and saving it to the Google account

This information was all logged as part of the ‘Web and App Activity feature, which does not specifically reference location information in its description.    

July 2018: The EU fined Google $5 Billion in for shutting-out competitors by forcing major phone manufacturers including South Korea’s Samsung and China’s Huawei to pre-install its search engine and Google Chrome browser by default. 

July 2018: The Wall Street Journal revealed that data privacy practices of Gmail means that it was common for third-party developers to read the contents of users’ Gmail messages. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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