Tag Archives: China

Google, China, Security… Oh my!

I’ve been reading more about the fallout of Google’s discussions with China regarding censorship and I came across an article that chilled me. To quote Shakespeare “A faint cold fear thrilled through my veins”.

In the week after Google stepped forward to challenge China’s stance on internet free speech and announced that attempts were made from within China to access data stored on Google’s servers. The Obama administration dropped China from a Priority 1 threat to Priority 2 status.

The Washington Times reported:

“The downgrading of intelligence gathering on China was challenged by Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair and CIA Director Leon E. Panetta after it was first proposed in interagency memorandums in October, current and former intelligence officials said.”  

The decision downgrades China from “Priority 1” status, alongside Iran and North Korea, to “Priority 2,” which covers specific events such as the humanitarian crisis after the Haitian earthquake or tensions between India and Pakistan.”

As I said this chilled me.

Because priority equals funding and without appropriate funding I worry that we will not be able to prevent cyber incursions. This isn’t familiar territory nor is it stable ground. The internet is constantly growing and changing. New technology appears every day and the safety of our data, our government’s data, and the data of the companies that call us home are at stake.

The Washington Post reported that:   

Cyber-attacks from China aimed at U.S. businesses, the Pentagon and other government agencies have become commonplace, if not epidemic, in recent years. So have Beijing’s demands that Western companies collaborate in its efforts to censor political content on the Internet and snoop on the private e-mails of its citizens, several of whom have been prosecuted with e-mails supplied by Yahoo. China aims not just at eliminating the free speech and virtual free assembly inherent to the Internet but at turning it into a weapon that can be used against democrats and democratic societies.”

So this is not the time that I want my country easing off its attention to, or funding of, intelligence gathering regarding China.

Not that I don’t understand why the Obama administration is playing nice. Our country is in debt and China holds a lot of that debt. This has put us in a very messy and complicated political situation. I understand complexity but I also understand the value of information.

China wants to have its cake and eat it too.

They want all of the benefits of belonging to the modern world while still holding on to their traditional role of controlling the information their citizens see.  

My hope is that someone smarter than me is looking at this problem and finding a way around the politics to do the right thing. Or, if political pressure doesn’t work then maybe peer pressure will. A lot of companies have invested heavily in China over the last ten years providing a view into different ways of doing things and a different way of life.

That is the slow course to change but it is a powerful one.

~ Tess

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Go Google!

Google made a stand yesterday for privacy rights.

A CNN report states that the company’s infrastructure was attacked and that the attack originated in China. The infiltration and surveillance was aimed at Chinese human rights activists in the United States, Europe and China. For a good overview of the history of Google’s relationship with China see CNET’s Tom Krazit.

Anyone who works in within the structure of the global economy and whose company or clients are working in China understands the risk. At this stage in the game China is a rocky proposition because it does not have the same privacy or intellectual property laws as most of the rest of the world. Labor is cheap, the workforce is educated, but there is little protecting your patens and intellectual property.  

Free speech is meaningless there – and Google has worked hard to adapt to the Chinese landscape including censoring results displayed on Google.cn.

Take a moment and imagine a world where the government censored the internet?  

Can you imagine? I can’t.

I applaud Google’s statement that they have decided to stop censoring Google.cn and want to talk to the Chinese government about operating an ‘unfiltered’ search engine. Most important they have stated they are willing to leave and walk away from one of the largest economies in the world in order to insure the safety of their information and by extension ours.

“Don’t be Evil.”

One of Google’s stated an aim in its initial pubic offering was “don’t be evil”.

We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served-as shareholders and in all other ways-by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains. This is an important aspect of our culture and is broadly shared within the company.”

Their current course may lead them to leave the Chinese market which I am of two minds about.

First – I don’t want anyone hacking into Google’s databases searching for information about anyone and from the press release it appears that is a major factor in their decision.

Second – if Google and the other big search engines were to leave China that would create a power vacuum that the government could then fill providing even more control over the information viewed by their population.  

So where is the good? The evil?

This isn’t an easy decision – even just looking at the moral grounds. My hope is that a compromise can be found. That somehow China will see the way clear to joining the world on more equal footing and that there will be economic pressures to meet Google halfway.  

No matter what happens it will be historic and the impacts far reaching and mostly unknowable.

~ Tess Anderson

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