The documents reportedly reference a project codenamed Dragonfly that has been underway since spring 2017.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin, whose parents brought him to the USA to escape communist Russian Federation, led a dramatic exit from mainland China in 2010 after the company refused to self-censor search content.
She suggested the move may violate a recent Google pledge not to build technology that contravenes widely accepted principles on human rights. It's an Android app, and allegedly a finalized version has been shown to Chinese government officials.
It certainly makes financial sense for Google to want a piece of the Chinese market in a more direct fashion, but its previous policy of "Don't Be Evil" may have been completely forgotten for this project.
Once the app is completed, if Google believes the product excels China's current leading search engine, Baidu, and it gets approved by China's government, Dragonfly would be the US search giant's biggest step in the Chinese market.
Separately, a Chinese official with knowledge of the plans said that Google has been in contact with authorities at the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) about a modified search program. Even the Play Store isn't spared and Android phones intended for the Chinese market ship without any Google Apps (or GApps) preloaded.
The human rights group said it would be a "dark day for internet freedom" and would constitute "a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom" if the tech giant accepted China's censorship terms.
Beijing-based Baidu tumbled 7.7 per cent to US$228.07 as of the close of trading on Wednesday. While there aren't any plans for a desktop version quite yet, that shouldn't pose a real issue as 95% of users in China access the internet through a mobile device with Android holding a market share of 80%. The project started past year in April after Sundar Pinchai's meeting with the Chinese government.
This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom.
Other publications followed The Intercept and confirmed the report. Following the meeting, Google announced an AI research center in Beijing and later released a file management app and sketch game for China's growing internet-using population. It will automatically block any websites or searches that are not approved under the Great Firewall. They unveiled various bits and stages for Alphabet's possible censored search engine project, but the main source for the rumors seems to have originated in an Intercept report.
The worker, who declined to be named, said that he had seen slides on the effort and that many executives at the vice president level were aware of it.