Google vs. China vs. Google: update roundup


• Must-read commentary by Open Society fellow Rebecca MacKinnon: "Are China's demands for Internet 'self-discipline' spreading to the West?" and a related post, "Google, China, and the future of freedom on the global Internet." And today, a related piece from MacKinnon, which includes the memorable line, "Never fear, netizens of internet-censoring nations, America is here to save you, galloping in on our trusty steed Google, brandishing our mighty weapon, Twitter!!"

• "I almost got weepy when I read the news about Google, then I put down my crack pipe." The real reason Google wants out of China? It's not human rights, says Oxblood Ruffin.

• Joe Stewart of Atlanta-based computer security research firm SecureWorks has identified what he believes is clear evidence of "the digital fingerprints of Chinese authors" in malware used to attack Google in China. Related: Markoff's articles on the possibility that hackers left backdoors. (NYT)

• Photograph: Flowers at the Google headquarters office in China (China Digital Times).

Ten websites that will help you understand the Chinese Internet. "All of them survived China's censorship, and are developing rapidly," says the post's author, "Donnie" Hao. "Compare[d] to the websites that has been blocked, they are the real mainstream for the over 400 million Chinese netizens." (via Ethan Zuckerman)

• Doc Searls: "Encirclement is more than censorship. It's a war strategy, and China has been at war with the Internet from the start."

(image: "Spy vs. Spy," a fan-riff on the famous Mad Magazine comic, by deviantart user Zarious)


  1. Google violates personal privacy all the time – they’re the only mail service that admits to scanning your messages to add to their trackable profile on you. Plus, combined with DoubleClick (which they bought for 3.1 Billion) they can combine your ISP with your name, address and SSN#… Which they then can sell.

    And you can’t block the Google cookie or get the to delete the information they keep on there servers for 2 years… No wonder the Mozilla guy said he avoid any Google… Forget China, GOOGLE is the EVIL EMPIRE. They are like “1984” meets ad sales.

    More HateBombs on this topic at

    1. @Pedro “They are like “1984” meets ad sales.”

      Are you seriously going to compare Google to 1984? In response to a post about China? Did you even read the book?

  2. Oh yeah man, Google tortures and jails dissidents without trial all the time. Forget China. All they do is scan your mail so they can market crap at you for a service you have to *choose* to sign up for in the first place!

    Google is also run by David Icke’s lizard people.

    How am I doing? Did I get any XP for that?

  3. NPR exposed the real story, natch. China is undertaking a concentrated effort at intellectual espionage, stealing networking tech that only free markets can make.

    Google refuses to operate in a state that hacks their tech.

    Freedom of private mail vs. money makes no sense. Money vs. money does.

  4. Good one on Icke…

    Listen, the conspiracy theory stuff sounds rich. But then, why did Steve Balmer admit Hotmail doesn’t read your mail. I know YOU are cool with it. By that same token, I suppose you have no problem with me reading your journal, if it part of building a better world.

    Google makes money by gathering information and then selling it as service. These privacy issues with China are only about some GMail accounts. Imagine if someone hacked into the datebases with your two year browsing history, which is already able to link to your name, address and SSN#.

    If you really are comfortable with all that, then list your bank account, address and sexual orientation here. Or is it only OK if Google handles that info and sells it?

  5. I guess constant surveillance doesn’t meet your definition of “intellectual espionage.” WHY is OK for Google to horde all this information on you and collate it? Why must I agree to that to use and Google service – and keep in mind they have practical monopolies on digital advertising, video hosting and analytics.

    What China did, is what GMail does already. Except Google gets a hall pass, because you checked you agree to their privacy policy.

  6. Incidentally, I am TOTALLY CONVINCED that this and stories like the Iran, Guatemala twitter revolutions are THE stories historians will tell about our time.

    ty, bb. Tho, this post is kind of a text blob.

  7. I don’t understand people ranting about Google being evil. Performing statistical analysis on your journal is very different from reading it, and they don’t sell its contents. “What fraction of people will respond well to this ad” is nothing like “give me the SSNs of a thousand people”.

    Pedro M, they don’t and can’t sell that information. It’s illegal in the US, and it’s not profitable anyway. And, incidentally, you can block cookies. Also, it’s very nearly impossible to hack those databases, because only a couple dozen people have access at all, even within the company. Even then, most of it is encrypted so those people can’t get at it, only perform analysis. Google does not make money selling the contents of your email and your browsing history (they don’t even have your browsing history except in certain special cases). Silencing dissidents is not the same as analyzing their email for targeted advertising, which, let us not forget, is what Google sells. Not bank accounts, not the contents of your neighbor’s personal life, not your browsing history or journal. Targeted advertising.

    When all is said and done, Google is still mostly run by the engineers. The company almost didn’t agree to censor results in China because much of the company felt it was morally wrong. This decision is absolutely about protecting their intellectual property, but it is at least as much about engineers no longer being willing to put up with the environment in China.

  8. You have got to be shitting me. Are you people really trying to compare Google’s practices to fucking China? China blocks and collects information on its citizens to prosecute them. If you are lucky, you get a show trial before being vanishing away into a rehabilitation through labor camp for a few years. If you are unlucky, you just vanish.

    Google on the other hand frantically wants the world to connect. They (selfishly) go out and fight the good fight to increase connectivity, fight information censorship, and in general do encourage warm fuzzy 1st amendmentie stuff.

    Certainly, it has algorithms running through your data and try and sell you shit that you want. I rate “trying to sell me stuff that I want” as pretty fucking low on the list of evils. I’ll take a few text adds in the corner for a nice book in the corner over dragged from my house in the middle of the night for saying naughty things against the state.

    Get some fucking perspective. Google might not walk on water, and there are lots of good reasons to legislate wisely such that the horrific amount of information Google is sitting on isn’t used for anything more evil than trying to guess which book I am most likely to want, but to put it on the same scale as what China does with its internet is utterly absurd.

    1. Rindan @#9 – It’s a first world entitlement thing. People who’ve never really had serious civil rights abuses committed against them see the scanning of an email service you have to sign up to use in order to sell ads as comparable to torture because torture never happens to them, so x-bad-thing-and y-bad-thing are interchangeable.

      Or to put it simply, privileged egotists lack perspective.

      As for Google, I don’t buy the hand wringing. If Brin was really bothered by the issue, he could just frigging walk away. But if doing business with torturers in such a way that you’re agreeing to aid them in catching dissidents is a deal breaker for you, you’re probably not the sort of person who ends up in charge of a giant multinational anyhow. Those guys can rationalize anything if it pays enough.

  9. What’s with all the Google hating?

    Google does something good (stops censoring results in China), and people are complaining?

    Doesn’t make much sense.

  10. It’s silly to talk about China stealing Google’s intellectual property as if it is a _real_ issue.

    Software on it’s own is pretty useless. Remember when netscape first went open source? Everyone was like, “Woo hoo! Let’s throw it all out and start again from scratch!”

    If they could kidnap the _actual_ coders for then taking source code might make sense. Otherwise you have a useless pile of code that no one really wants.

    You may even think you want it, but that means you have never had a huge pile of horrible undocumented code dumped on you before.

  11. Comparing what Google is doing to what China is doing is just absolutely insane. Last time I checked, Google doesn’t murder people. I mean…seriously?

    Besides, what Google is doing with information is not even new.

    Every site that you go to and exchange information with stores that information. Let me repeat that. EVERY SITE THAT YOU GO TO AND EXCHANGE INFORMATION WITH STORES THAT INFORMATION.

    Google is in the spotlight because it provides so many services for people that it is capable of storing a great amount of information on people. However, they are not doing anything different from companies like Microsoft, Verizon, Amazon, Newegg, Apple, and the list just goes on forever.

    Not only do ALL of these companies store your information, but ALL of them mine it. They would be stupid not to. You know that Kroger card you have to get the best prices? Same thing. Maybe you avoid using these because of that reason. Do you use coupons clipped out of the newspaper? It’s just an older form of that Kroger card. And then there’s the retail credit cards.

    Google is not doing anything new in terms of data storage and mining.

    If you think your privacy is violated by Google, then you fail at life. If you give information out freely, it is no longer private.

  12. Count me a Google fan. I believe them when they say their mission is to make all the world’s information available to everyone at all times because–guess what?–that’s pretty much what they have done and continue to do. And they make all this information available to everyone, rich or poor, *for free.* That’s why they easily attract the most idealistic and brilliant engineers in the country.

    Obviously, this mission costs money to implement. Google developed the least obtrusive, most successful ad-based scheme in history, one that actually makes the ads more useful to the viewer and more effective for the advertiser. So now, Google gets blamed for successfully financing their mission because they mine your personal data the same way every other company does.

    Of course, they also use the data they mine to come up with new, previously unimaginable services. Think location awareness, augmented reality, etc. If you really think most of the folks at Google are motivated more by money than the desire to change the world, then your cynicism knows no bounds.

    If I had to choose between Google and the U.S. government, I would choose Google every time. I already *know* the U.S. government can’t be trusted. They have recently engaged in well-documented illegal and unconstitutional monitoring–and decided not to prosecute themselves.

    Google’s decision to censor results in China cost them dearly and badly impacted morale within the company. Google’s success rests on an alchemical combination of game-changing results and the passion and trust of its users. No way will they ever abuse that trust in the U.S. If they did their users, myself included, would flock to Bing overnight.

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