posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 13th Jan 2010 00:27 UTC
IconSo, I was about to go to bed when major news regarding Google and China hit my browser. Google has stated on its blog that after a number of attacks upon Google's servers, and attempted cracking of GMail accounts from Chinese human rights activists, the company is thinking of ceasing its operations in China. Google will, in any case, cease censoring search results on Google.cn.

Google's David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, made the big announcement on the Google blog. As it turns out, Google discovered that what first appeared to be a random cyber attack on the company, was actually a concerted effort against several companies.

In addition, and far more worryingly, Google claims that the primary target of the attack was the GMail accounts of Chinese human rights activists from all over the world. "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," Drummond writes, "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."

"As part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered 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," he added, "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."

Drummond further details that Google is not happy with the Chinese government's attempts to further limit free speech on the web, and that the above facts combined force Google to rethink its 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," Drummond writes, "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

This is major news, of course, and I have to say that if Google sticks to its guns on this one, then I most certainly applaud their course of action.

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