Google built a tool in 2012 designed to help organize Syrian dissidents opposed to President Bashar Assad, according to a new batch of emails released from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private server. Jared Cohen, once the head of the Google Ideas division, sent a message to top Clinton officials in July 2012 outlining a tool that would publicly track and map defections in Syria.
"Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition," Cohen wrote. "Given how hard it is to get information into Syria right now, we are partnering with Al-Jazeera who will take primary ownership over the tool we have built, track the data, verify it, and broadcast it back into Syria."
Cohen worked at the State Department until 2010, when Google picked him up.
Google launched Picasa, Chrome and Google Earth in Syria in May 2012, after navigating tricky sanctions against the embattled country. More recently, Google launched an information app for European refugees (many of whom are fleeing Syria) seeking basic services in new countries.