LAB IMPRESSIONS

Google’s broken China

Attack sparks a change in direction

Last week Google announced that it had undergone a series of coordinated attacks on its infrastructure and that of as many as 33 other companies, from China of all places. More specifically, the company said that one goal of the attackers was probably to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. And something tells me they weren’t just trying to join the human rights club.

Of course, Google scrambled to make improvements to its security infrastructure, and Adobe and Microsoft have patched some of their systems that may have been responsible for leaving the systems vulnerable to attack. But that apparently isn’t enough for Google.

When Google went into China three years ago, it chose the (arguably) lesser evil of censorship while providing increased access to the Internet for the Chinese people. Apparently Google’s informal motto of “Don’t Be Evil” meant “Don’t Be the Greater Evil.”

But now Google officials are saying that they have to seriously reconsider their operations in China, not just because of these attacks but because of the Chinese government’s further attempts to limit free speech. They say they may even have to shut down Google.cn and abandon the company's offices in China.

I have to commend Google for finally sticking to its guns. If the company follows through with this, it can even change its motto back.

Heck, this might be the thing to make the Chinese government finally listen to everyone else and ease up on the human rights violations. Because, like the rest of us, now that they have a taste of unrestricted Internet access, they won’t want to give it up. Imagine what you’d do if you were told your access to the Internet was going to be severely restricted. You’d probably sit up straight and do whatever Google told you.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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