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Google vs. China Round 2: China Underlines Its Laws, Google Stops Android Roll-Out

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The political/ethical/financial spat between Google and the Chinese authorities has entered its second phase: The Chinese government is underlining its legal position, and Google's responding by postponing the launch of Android phones.

When Google announced it was going to uncensor its Google.cn search engine last week, it came as a surprise--not many organizations have taken such a bold stance against the human-rights suppression of the Chinese authorities. The move was celebrated all over the Web, even while Google's real motivations weren't too deeply investigated.

Of course Google's public statement of its intentions hinged on a massive cyber attack, sourced within China (and possibly coming from government-approved actions) late last year. The hackers appeared to be gaining access to Google's proprietary code and data on Gmail users who are public critics of Chinese policies. As a result of this attack, Google set itself in direct conflict with China's censorship laws and may face closure. This is seeming ever more likely an outcome, with Chinese government officials again underlining that Google must obey local laws. But if Google does pull out of the nation, its slightly relaxed stance on Internet censorship will be lost: Chinese Net users will only have the more popular (and more highly censored) government-sponsored search engine Baidu to use. It seems that the Chinese sensors were pushing Google to up its self-censorship to match Baidu's policies--and this also played into Google's decision.

But if Google pulled out of China, there were also worries about the future of the Android smartphone OS in the nation--and that worry has now come true, with the AP reporting that Google has "postponed" plans for its Android phone there. From the AP report it's not clear if this refers just to the recently-revealed Google-branded Nexus One, or all Android phones--but with other news that China Unicom is "indefinitely" postponing its plans to launch a suite of Android devices (which would've happened this week) the future of Chinese Android looks dim.

And there's also much more sinister news emerging about the extent of the China-based cyber attacks. Google itself is investigating whether the hackers had inside help--and that raises serious worries about the possibility of a Chinese government mole (or at least a tech-savvy sympathizer) working inside Google. Meanwhile the Indian National Security Advisor has also issued a statement that Chinese hackers also attempted to gain access to government computers using what seems to be a similar trojan-based attack to that which Google suffered. This suggests that the cyber attacks were much more widespread than previously thought, and tackled a much broader set of targets.

While these bits of news add a certain level of James bond intrigue to the affair, it's now becoming a much more serious issue that will begin to impact global politics. The Chinese government has repeatedly stated that it forbids hacking, but the apparent targets of the hacks could only really be considered "enemies" to an official boy like the government. And if government computers in India were also targeted, one has to wonder how many other nations were affected, and how many other Chinese cyber attacks haven't yet been reported.

[Via Yahoo, Re-think, The Times, Reuters]

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2 Comments

  • Huge Hugene

    Google is not a manufacturing firm, it's not a retailer. It's an online service provider bundled with an advertisement agency. Everything they do is algorithm / automated / code based: and so their most valuable assets are data and IP. When these assets come under attack, they must defend them. It will be a hard battle to ensure that their private property is respected in China, but it's a tremendous step in the right direction. And the delaying of Android shows that it's not only smoke but it is serious. I'll write more about the implications of the hack on Google on my blog http://thehugethrilla.blogspot...

  • Ronald Paredes

    I am totally behind Google with its position against the chinese government and its criminal and unethical way to deal with everything and everyone who goes against their will. But I think Google leaving the country is the best solution.
    Google should stay in china and show them in their own land manners, ethics and honesty.
    The best way for Google to get back at those criminals is to develop and launch a free VPN service that give access to all the chinese netizens to the free and open internet and destroy the great fire wall forever.