Google's new approach to China

Yesterday Google lnc. issued an official statement reporting that the company had been hit by cyber attack originated from China. The attackers were trying to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists. The company said it would talk with the Chinese government regarding how it might operate in China without censorship or else they would consider shutting down google.cn and closing down its China office.

Today, a number of netizens from China reported that the google.cn's image search on “Tiananmen” could find photos of the Tiananmen massacre. It seems that Google lnc. has shut down its filter. Twitterers from Beijing said that they would send flowers to Google office for their noble and brave act. But some were worried that Google will eventually shut down.

David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, reported in Google's office blog that the company detected a highly sophisticated attack on its infrastructure and resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google in mid-December. And it found out that 20 other big companies had similar attacks and the case had been handed over to relevant U.S authorities.

Furthermore, the primary goal of the attackers was to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. But so far only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Google's investigation also found out 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. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.

David Drummond stressed if the company could not find way to operate without censorship and protect users’ security, it will reconsider its approach to China:

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.

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