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Google announces a review process for handling controversial projects

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In the wake of reports that Google didn’t follow normal procedure in the development of a censored search product for China— with execs said to have circumvented standard company procedures and shut out important legal and security staffers from deliberations — the search giant has announced a revamping of its internal review processes.

On Tuesday, Google announced that it has established a formal process to review new AI-based initiatives that involve sensitive policy questions. The review structure was announced as a part of the company’s six-month update to its AI Principles that CEO Sundar Pichai released in June.

According to the report, one hundred reviews have been conducted so far, including a review of its facial recognition technologies for developers— which the company decided to sideline.

“In a small number of product use-cases—like a general-purpose facial recognition API — we’ve decided to hold off on offering functionality before working through important technology and policy questions,” Google wrote.

Read more: Google’s Dragonfly execs didn’t take written notes and isolated internal teams to hide China search plans from other employees

A Google spokesperson confirmed with Business Insider that Project Dragonfly — its censored search engine project for China, which the company has not announced plans to formally release — was not one 100 projects referenced in the report and did not face the scrutiny of the newly announced review process. Google did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s questions as to why that was the case.

As first reported by The Intercept on Monday, Google will likely halt the Dragonfly project over privacy concerns around the data sources it was using to build the product.

Google says that its new review process consists of three internal groups: an “innovations team” that oversees daily operations and initial assessments, “a group of senior experts” for technical guidance, and “council of senior executives” to make the most difficult decisions.

Google did not respond to Business Insider’s request for names of executives that are apart of the review groups. Other tech giants, including Microsoft, have adopted similar council structures to oversee AI development.

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