Google has long complied with the government-mandated censorship required to operate in China, despite criticism from human rights and freedom of speech advocates. However, Google may be changing their tune, based on a blog post yesterday. Google’s new approach to China is far more open—and at least partially because a Chinese cyber attack compromised some intellectual property of the search giant.
Naturally, Google is frequently the subject of cyber attacks, but this incident became more than just a security concern for Google. In addition to discovering dozens of other victims, Google has also determined the object of the breach—the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google’s investigation has shown, so far, that the attackers did not compromise the accounts, though they might have been able to access basic information (creation date, subject lines) on two of them. They also found that other third parties (likely phishers and malware on users’ computers) had accessed other activists’ accounts.
But Google’s doing more than advising users to scan their computers and beefing up https access to Gmail (emphasis added):
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
Hm . . . I almost wonder if what they found in those activists’ accounts was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Google says that since their first foray into the country four years ago, they’ve believed that making some information available was a worthy objective—but, as they say above, they now believe that they must push for a more open Internet in China.
What do you think? Will Google get to stay in China, or is this the end of Google.cn?