Google said last week that they are considering pulling out of China after a sophisticated attack on the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
Google have explained their new position on China in a lengthy blog post on the official Google blog. Here are some of the core messages from the post:
In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.
…we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. 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
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
The announcement has prompted a response from the Chinese government, who says they welcome foreign companies in China, as long as they abide with local censorship laws.
The decision could have a massive impact on the Chinese search market, which is the world’s largest with 338 million users. While Google does not have a majority market share in the country (Baidu leads with 62%) the possible closure could have a far bigger impact on their internet economy as a whole.
“Among the four most-visited sites in the world are Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube,” says one blogger on Caing.com. “We Chinese have already lost the access to three of them, so Google’s disappearance is a tragedy. We are losing the most convenient and advanced communication tools. But where should we go if all the doors to the world are closed?”
What do you think of Google’s decision? Is their moral standing worth losing millions of dollars in revenue and users? Let us know via the comments below.