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Google Hacked and No Longer Willing to Censor Results in China
After hack of email accounts apparently by the govt.
physics




msg:4059450
 11:30 pm on Jan 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

The hack was reportedly highly sophisticated and targeted at Chinese human rights activists.

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered ... 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 ... We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

(emphasis mine)

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/ [googleblog.blogspot.com]

Wow.
My question is: Did Google not know what they were getting into when they got involved with the Chinese government in the first place?

[edited by: tedster at 1:05 am (utc) on Jan. 13, 2010]
[edit reason] switch to permalink [/edit]

 

lusary




msg:4061179
 4:36 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think google.cn will not leave China.If google.cn really need leave,google will throw much more.

walkman




msg:4061186
 4:59 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

coolfx35,
depends on how you define happiness. You can feed someone, keep them in a bubble and they may feel happy. To each his own.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4061261
 9:45 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

And that, from my perspective, is the most condemning thing that can be said ... about the government of China, the organization that went to a great deal of trouble to create that environment in which there could be no right thing to do.

Didn't Google create this environment for themselves?

If they had refused to go there in the first place because of the censorship they would have been universally applauded for this.

They chose to put profit before scruples and get into bed with the Chinese government. Despite the feeble attempts to justify it at the time it was all done for profit and nothing else. It now leaves them with no right thing to do (as opinion in here seems to confirm).

yaix2




msg:4061262
 9:51 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I agree with coolfx35. I am living in China currently to get to know country and culture (the nice thing about running web sites is geographic independence). The whole thing is not so easy as it looks in western media. Compare Africa/China 30 years ago and then today. One is going deeper and deeper into despair, the other one is doing better every day. Of course many people here are happy.

But more freedom also brings more responsibilities. That is something that has to be learned and takes time, nothing that pops up overnight, like many in the West seam to believe.

phranque




msg:4061294
 11:39 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

the attack vector was a system developed by google to organize user information to satisfy subpoenas and "national security letters".
what sweet irony.
instead of streamlining this process they should have been "doing no evil" and protecting privacy and fighting government intrusion or at most letting bureaucratic inefficiency work at its normal pace.
this aspect of the story will be hidden by all the great PR they are getting from the announcement.

zett




msg:4061316
 12:21 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Seeing this story unravel is interesting.

What have we got so far?

Google: PR smokescreens from MV telling the main stream media that they do this for two reasons 1) censorship debate, and 2) hacking attempts on Gmail accounts. Google making https connections the default for Gmail. A revenue of $200M generated in the PRC. They threaten to uncensor the results on google.cn. (I have not seen a credible source that Google already has uncensored their results.)

The PRC: Reacts as expected, pointing to Chinese laws and equal rules for all (Internet) companies operating in China. Also they have strict laws against hacking etc etc. And they pull the plug, or will pull the plug once Google uncensors their results on google.cn. Business as usual. They have no issue with that, and they prefer Baidu over Google anyway.

Possible explanations:

1) Google has suddenly realized they can indeed be not evil and decided to pull out of the PRC. No, no, and no - this does not make sense at all. Why now? Why link it to the hacking attempts? Why not just say, "we're done with this censorship thing" and wave good-bye? No.

2) Google are fed up with the treatment from the Chinese regime and are in dire need of positive PR in the western world who have been really upset about recent Google statements, launches and announcements. But I do not think that Google would just withdraw from one of the main future markets to get a short-lived PR value in the western world. Typically, companies never actively reduce their growth opportunities to get some positive PR. Nah.

3) Google realized that they can not compete with Baidu and decided to pull out. This could be the case, but somehow it just does not sound like Google, who certainly have the spirit to keep fighting. Also they do have the cash to keep the operations running, maybe on maintenance mode. Why give the whole thing up, when they operate in other markets where they also are not number one? Nah.

So what could be it? I have only two plausible theories what really happenend.

A) Through analysis of their massive usage data they (think they) can predict what is going to happen in PRC, i.e. they know that the tide will be turning and that the PRC will change. Soon. So they decide to pull out for the moment, trying to speed up the freedom process and to leave a positive impression in the western world AND IN CHINA. Just see those Chinese folks putting down flowers in front of the Google offices in China! They certainly do have fans over there. And when the liberation comes, Google get in again, with big hoopla and enjoy a bigger market share. -- This theory is interesting, because it could be true. Google placing a bet on "change, soon" and takes the positive PR value on its way out. Could be. Still does not solve the question of the "why link all this to hacking", but hey.

B) The Google China office had one or more sophisticated "moles" who had access to source code and/or user data, or tried to gain access to source code and/or user data. Google corporate security caught one of the moles while stealing the stuff, or found the code that should have done this. They could not identify the mole(s) and realized they have a massive security issue. Massive! Google then decided that the risk of operating an office in China is simply too high. When you can not trust your employees in such vital questions, then you have to shut the whole thing down. -- This theory is the best in my view. It would explain the strange link to the hacking attempts; it would explain why the employees are (according to CNN) already on paid leave. The whole censorship discussion covers up the embarrassing facts of Google being very vulnerable. It hurts to give up China, sure. It's a massive failure, sure. It probably throws you back years, sure. But it has to be done if you don't want to lose the whole thing. Just imagine, if the moles had access to user data! They would need to release just a tiny sample to the press, and Google would be toast. Noone would ever trust Google with anything again, especially with the whole privacy debate right now. (From the fact that they "just" closed the office and seem to continue the discussion Chinese officials we know that no data has been compromised, so they can not be blackmailed.)

Personally, I think option (B) is the best explanation for what has been going on.

geekie




msg:4061359
 2:05 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

the attack vector was a system developed by google to organize user information to satisfy subpoenas and "national security letters".
what sweet irony.

Got a source? I missed this...

B) The Google China office had one or more sophisticated "moles" who had access to source code and/or user data, or tried to gain access to source code and/or user data. Google corporate security caught one of the moles while stealing the stuff, or found the code that should have done this. They could not identify the mole(s) and realized they have a massive security issue. Massive! Google then decided that the risk of operating an office in China is simply too high. When you can not trust your employees in such vital questions, then you have to shut the whole thing down. -- This theory is the best in my view. It would explain the strange link to the hacking attempts; it would explain why the employees are (according to CNN) already on paid leave. The whole censorship discussion covers up the embarrassing facts of Google being very vulnerable. It hurts to give up China, sure. It's a massive failure, sure. It probably throws you back years, sure. But it has to be done if you don't want to lose the whole thing. Just imagine, if the moles had access to user data! They would need to release just a tiny sample to the press, and Google would be toast. Noone would ever trust Google with anything again, especially with the whole privacy debate right now. (From the fact that they "just" closed the office and seem to continue the discussion Chinese officials we know that no data has been compromised, so they can not be blackmailed.)

Part of this theory makes sense. Maybe G got hacked, freaked out closed the office, needed a plausible explanation - not that I think they found one or none of us would be asking questions but the majority of people seem to think it makes sense (then again they probably didn't spend more than two seconds thinking about it).

Theory A is a big gamble and I don't see it. Although they do need some good press.

Still think there is more to this story. Why be in negotiations with the Chinese now? How will stopping censoring keep the Chinese from hacking Google? It just doesn't make sense. Maybe this is all just a big diversion for a story that has yet to break?

zett




msg:4061386
 2:43 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Part of this theory makes sense. Maybe G got hacked, freaked out closed the office, needed a plausible explanation - not that I think they found one or none of us would be asking questions but the majority of people seem to think it makes sense (then again they probably didn't spend more than two seconds thinking about it).

I think the infection must have been widespread in the Google office, so it was impossible to narrow down who was responsible for the infection.

Still think there is more to this story. Why be in negotiations with the Chinese now?

The attack might not have come from the Chinese government, but from a competitor. And they now need to find out who's dunnit, seeking help from the Chinese government? But why drag it to the public then? Or, there are no negotiations, at least no "real" negotiations.

How will stopping censoring keep the Chinese from hacking Google?

Ah, the censoring thing is just to distract from reality, a PR stunt. I'm pretty sure about that. The problem must have been related to the Google office.

Maybe this is all just a big diversion for a story that has yet to break?

Yeah, let's wait and see what comes up next.

Slinger




msg:4061538
 6:09 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Chinese Govt Statement to Google: "ZaiJian Google"

Hugene




msg:4061592
 7:25 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think it's a reaction to the hacking [wired.com] that happened there and at Acrobat in December. I think that G has realized that the PRC government will have no scruples to use any means necessary to interfere with G's operations. And that's scary because any stolen source code goes straight to whom in your opinion?

Baidu.

So basically, they need to defend their IP, and that is the way to go. I support that. IP is the last thing that western companies have left.

Sierra_Dad




msg:4061612
 7:46 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I vote for B. Does this remind anyone of Willy Wonka closing his Chocolate Factory?

How will stopping censoring keep the Chinese from hacking Google?

Well, as a practical matter, the probable result of uncensoring will be ceasing all operations in China. If the offices in China are an issue, it will give one less place from which to stage attacks.

Or does censoring involve allowing some government officials physical or virtual access to Google facilities in a way that could give them a back door? I really don't know.

I guess there is the slightest chance that China will let uncensored results in. In that case, maybe Google feels they could compete with Baidu by providing new and interesting results that don't exist according to other search engines. Of course, the user experience will be degraded by the fact you can't get to the actual websites - so it might be a draw.

But that's probably so unlikely that it isn't in Google's plans. This is more like giving Sadam Hussein 24 hours to leave Iraq. By that time, you know he isn't going to do it and you are going to attack.

walkman




msg:4061662
 9:08 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

The spy in G offices is an interesting one. How hard can it be for Chinese intel (or any intel service for that matter) to compromise a few out of 1000+ engineers? A combination of patriotism, money and blackmail will work magic.

coolfx35




msg:4061671
 9:27 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

People in China aren't used to the type of freedom that going around in the US which has more than 200 years of history.

If all of sudden you can give them "Bill of Rights" as an example, it will create chaos in China, the problem is most westerners have no idea how the Chinese people are living their lives and thinking that freedom will guarantee to make their lives better.

Look at what free market capitalism has brought USA back in 2008-2009, the whole economy was at the edge of collapse due to some greedy private individuals. This will never happen in China when most business are controlled by the gov't, so it can be a good thing.

China is lucky enough now to have such good top gov't officials whom really cares about its citizens. With this kind of economy growth, they must be doing something right, don't you agree?

What google trying to do is just irresponsible, I hope they get out of China sooner rather than later.

IanKelley




msg:4061719
 10:27 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I just finished reading some newer info about the recent cyber attack from a number of sources. To summarize...

- There doesn't seem to be any doubt the Chinese government was behind the attack based on the information that the attack targeted. Most notably, the gmail accounts of Chinese free speech activists.
- It targeted much more than just email.
- The attack was the most sophisticated to date against a non government entity.
- It targeted over 30 companies and used multiple vulnerabilities (in addition to the IE hole).
- Google caught the attack early, Adobe (et al) didn't discover it until around two weeks in!

Essentially the Chinese government just ran a major cyber offensive against the western world. Interestingly, from their perspective there was probably nothing wrong with it as it's exactly how they operate within their borders.

Sierra_Dad




msg:4061727
 10:43 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Look at what free market capitalism has brought USA back in 2008-2009, the whole economy was at the edge of collapse due to some greedy private individuals.

It was more than a few greedy individuals. And "edge of collapse" was the story line offered by our government officials as an excuse to run up more debt. But at least we can vote for or against our government officials.

I don't quite buy the whole "freedom is overrated, just need a good economy." argument. Is this prosperity really reaching the average citizen in China, or just big business and government officials?

This will never happen in China when most business are controlled by the gov't, so it can be a good thing.

I wouldn't be sure about that. Have you heard of "single point of failure"?

caine




msg:4061886
 6:18 am on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately China cannot be trusted. Its a despotic regime, and a leadership that has absolute power with ZERO FREE SPEECH. Though i believe as others have said that google decided to dance with the PRC and it was an act of greed than of common sense, hence however this works out; I'm afraid only Google are too blame.

Look at what free market capitalism has brought USA back in 2008-2009, the whole economy was at the edge of collapse due to some greedy private individuals. This will never happen in China when most business are controlled by the gov't, so it can be a good thing.

But you choose to live in the US, why not go back to China if it's so good. The PRC held over 2 trillion USD of liquidity out of the market, and that in fact was the catalyst of the collapse, though the route cause being the free market's non regulation (US, Europe and i also think HK [which is PRC] ?) of dodgy fiscal instruments such as debenture's & sub-prime's.

Personally what i don't understand, is this rush of corporations of the US and Europe to put profits before common sense. What is not built in China any more; what does everyone think will happen when China is more powerful than the US, Europe and Russia - do you honestly think they are friendly ? Were talking about a nation that's scared to show its dirty washing.

makemetop




msg:4061898
 7:39 am on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Marbridge Daily [marbridgeconsulting.com] is now reporting that talks have failed, Google China will close, employees will be offered positions elsewhere in Google and the Chinese Government is considering penalties.

We can await the official announcements from both sides.

phranque




msg:4061913
 9:12 am on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

the attack vector was a system developed by google to organize user information to satisfy subpoenas and "national security letters".
what sweet irony.

Got a source? I missed this...

Drummond said that the hackers never got into Gmail accounts via the Google hack, but they did manage to get some "account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line."

That's because they apparently were able to access a system used to help Google comply with search warrants by providing data on Google users, said a source familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press.


source: Computerworld [computerworld.com]

so i'll admit i got the precise legal terminology wrong as my original reply was going from memory.
but you can be damn sure that if they are serving up that information for search warrants they are also using their internal spy system for responding to national security letters and i would seriously doubt they are fighting any subpoenas to protect user privacy at this point.

shk3




msg:4062026
 2:27 pm on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

How many of you are Chinese or have been to China? I am a Chinese student. It is not true that there is no speech freedom in China. We can criticize the government in proper way like newspapers, radios... Because government is unfamiliar with the Internet, we can not talk some sensitive issues in Internet for some restricts, which is set by ICPs because they do not want users post illegal materials. In Chinese laws, posting illegal materials may also give the websites trouble. ICPs have duty to prevent it and help police arrest the poster.
Western medias are not interested in Chinese normal stories like our medias are, so you may often read some negative news to China and get some bad influence to China. If China were not free as you think, the reporter could not have done such report like ones in DPRK, and you would never know anything about us.
BTW, I as many our classmates would like to know what is China in your view. We can not know how do people overseas think us like you will not know how we think your countries.

Google gives the Gmail information of a Indian user who said something bad to Sonia Gandhi in Orkut with pleasure. Why Indian laws are laws, but Chinese laws are not laws? The things Google wants is beyond the power of Chinese government. It is illegal and abnormal that Chinese government had agreed what Google said. Chinese democratic reform is happening and the Google event may give a bad effect to it.

Do not forget there is no proof to evidence the GhostNet is built by Chinese government and the hack process is made by that. In other hand, are not CIA 's spies very active in China?

Someone said `You can feed someone, keep them in a bubble and they may feel happy`. So, why your happiness is only real happiness in the world? Is imposing one's view on others' is human right?
Chinese culture may be different from western culture. We want build our nation and democracy by ourselves not with any effects from others because of the half colonial history war since the Opium War in 1840.

I think 'China threat theory' is just an excuse to allow some countries build stronger army and do more actions beyond WTO rules. Is China so strong to threat you?

In fact, there are still some people can not eat enough food in China. Some people can not be happy in our views. China is still poor because of the large population. Some Chinese Internet users have not received enough education so that they can not come out independent views and do not know what is true democracy. They just think it is not democracy now as you may think and stuff their ears to domestic news and just believe grapevine and negative news without any source unthinkingly. What they think is democracy is to be emperors. Is it fair to others? It is also a reason that China can not happens rapid democratic reform.

About climate change, I think Chinese government has done so much work. The climate fact now is not made by China but by developed countries since Industrial Revolution. China has right to develop and has no duty to agree such restricted emission reduction targets, but China has still reduce the develop progress for it. I know American Dream is after a struggle one will be able to achieve the ideal of a better life. Why can not China achieve the ideal of a better life after a struggle? Why should China pay for others' bills? Is it democracy between nations?

There are some news:
- Some Chinese medias said that Google China employees had farewell lunch after net meeting with MTV and went to see the imax version "Affan up" movie on January 15. But most people think it is not true.

- January 14 night, a Google employee said to newspaper that due to all the Google China staffs have lost access to Google global database, some staff have been transferred to the Hong Kong office to continue working. "The staffs having not leaving could remain in the Google Beijing building, but basically doing nothing."

- Some news say that Google may just keep Android team in China.

tntpower




msg:4062061
 4:56 pm on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

- Some news say that Google may just keep Android team in China.

Forget it.

Do you think Chinese government will still allow Android in the mainland after google slaps on its face?

ap_Rhys




msg:4062069
 5:36 pm on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

People in China aren't used to the type of freedom that going around in the US which has more than 200 years of history.

200 years? by Asian and European standards 200 years is nothing. China has thousands of years of history. Unfortunately - and both Europe and the US have contributed - freedom has not figured much in that history. It hasn't figured too much for native and African-Americans either. Even less for the countries like Tibet and Taiwan that the Chinese Han invaded and have no business being there.

I doubt that China will have freedom for a long time. I'm sure that the 30,000 internet censors the Chinese government apparently employ will do their utmost to prevent that. As for Google, better late than never.

Jo555




msg:4062183
 11:23 pm on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

No one talks about the US government. It seems this time again it is extremely serious fighting for human rights or freedom or peach or any good reasons you just think of.

Digmen1




msg:4062188
 11:41 pm on Jan 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

There are two questions here
1 how big is the search engine market in China - probably huge !
2 How much advertising can you make from a country with low incomes - probably not much !

which leads to a third one
3 Were there many companies placing ads on Google Adwords in China ?

As regards China's copying and piracy I agree that they do it, but I am just reading a book on European travelers and explorers in the 1400's and it mentions an Italian Monk who went to China as a missionary and he came back with a whole lot of Silk Worms sewn in his monk outfit so that they could grown their own silk in Europe !

Not to mention the patent rights on rockets, paper and lots of other Chinese inventions.

Digby

bill




msg:4062615
 2:56 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

A very interesting article on Forbes does agree that Google's decision in China is more about the business than anything else. Whether you agree with the premise or not, this is one of the better summaries I've read on Google's time in China.

Why Google Is Quitting China [forbes.com]

It's easy to give up if you've already lost the battle. And Google is doing just that in China. Eric Schmidt's move to quit offering a censored Google.cn search engine to the Chinese market has been read by idealists as the right thing to do. But it is first a business decision.


IanKelley




msg:4062636
 4:49 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

Interesting article, but no I don't agree with the premise:

Even though Google's ( GOOG - news - people ) market share climbed from 15% in mid-2006 to 31% today, the company had hoped for a bigger share by now.

That Google had "hoped" for more is the only reason cited as to why they might be giving up.

31% of the world's largest search market, would you give it up? Would it be the smart decision from a purely business standpoint? In Google's case it isn't about expense, they have no shortage of cash and throw it at far less promising projects.

The article ends by pointing out that the Chinese market is so huge that if Baidu were to corner it they would quickly become the world's most popular search engine. Doesn't that just serve to highlight how important the market is?

31% of 350 million is over 100 million people regardless of who has the other 69%. In what boardroom can you sell giving up that kind of customer base as being the smart business decision when your mission statement is to organize information for everyone in the world?

There doesn't seem to be any question that the goverment sponsored cyber attack played a legitimate part in this decision.

bill




msg:4062658
 6:17 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

Everyone keeps saying that Google China had 30% market share, but I've seen plenty of claims that their share was much lower, as low as 12% in some claims. Does anyone have a link to an authoritative source?

Green_Grass




msg:4062659
 6:26 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

[reuters.com...]

Has google changed its mind..

Reg.. Visiting and staying in China.. as raised by Chinese webmasters..I had the pleasure of staying in China for three years as a diplomat's son in China.. Let me tell you every chinese who worked for us spied on us.... the cook, the gardener, the maid..the guards.. all spied on us.. It was pitiful.. The elevators were bugged.. the corridors were bugged..and what not..

Things may have changed for the better, I don't know.. I am talking about the 80's..

IanKelley




msg:4062722
 9:53 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

Things may have changed for the better

The bugs are smaller now :-)

Jo555




msg:4062727
 10:22 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

Actually Google.cn has only 1 digit (2%?) share of 31%, while google.com has most of it.

makemetop




msg:4062731
 10:27 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

Things may have changed for the better, I don't know

Having been to China numerous times and regularly over the past few years, I have been able to travel freely, speak to anyone I want - about anything I want, read many Western journals and engage in lively political debate about "taboo" subjects with Chinese friends to try and understand the Chinese point of view.

I have never been followed, bugged or spied upon (that I know of) and certainly not to the extent of here in the UK with our 12 million CCTV cameras - making us the most watched population on Earth!

Of course, I can't access many sites on the internet and the censorship is obvious to me - but Chinese law is Chinese law - same as in any country. I may not agree with it, or the political system (as in many other countries I go to) but do try and respect the laws of any country I go to. The Chinese will determine their own future and own path to that future.

Here though, we are discussing if Google are masking a commercial decision with wrapping themselves in the robes of doing "the right thing". My vote is still that it is a commercial decision - not moral.

On the 31% - I think that is probably % of advertising spend in China - not search volume. As I analyse well over 100 major Chinese and multi-national sites in China over a broad spectrum of markets, I get a consistent average of around 20% of searches from Google currently. And yes - Google.cn is a tiny fraction of that.

[edited by: makemetop at 10:30 am (utc) on Jan. 18, 2010]

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4062732
 10:30 am on Jan 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

31% of the world's largest search market, would you give it up?

Me personally? No I would not but it's not just the bare figures that are important here. They only refer to the search market. We have to consider what income G is generating in China as opposed to the more advertising and commercially driven developed countries. My bet would be that it is very small.

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