Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google's China Crisis

In an interesting and somewhat surprising move Google’s Chinese relations have worsened, to the state that they have decided to take on the Chinese government or shut down their Chinese operation! Some may say its posturing, others that they are standing firm on civil liberties, others may just wonder at a 10 year old taking on the world. Googleworld certainly is a new phenomena that clearly breaks with normal political diplomacy and demonstrates the power of the new global commercial organisation.

The statement from David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer is posted on Google’s official blog site ‘A New Approach to China’. In it Drummond claims that in mid-December, They detected a ‘highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google’. He went on to claim that, ‘this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.’

He continues to claim that Google has evidence that leads then to conclude, ‘that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.'

Finally, Google claim, ‘we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.’

Google have concluded that they are, ‘ no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, 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, and potentially our offices in China.’

Whether the claims made are rightly aimed at the Chinese government and what actually took place for what reason, is unclear and probably will remain so. The challenge for Google is two fold, in first having to increasingly deal at the political level in several states on various issues and secondly spreading their cloud, search, admobile, phones and software across the globe, whilst winning the hearts of those who are starting to see the potential evil empire that Google didn’t want to be associated with. China is an interesting case, where in one breath, Google admit infringing rights albeit copyright and in another, they uphold them and claim the moral high ground within the same country.

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