The Great Leap Backward: will computer makers kowtow to Beijing's censorware demands?

L. Gordon Crovitz has an interesting piece in the WSJ about China's on-again-off-again-on-again decree that starting on July 1, all computers sold in China must come installed with government-designed censorware.

"Green Dam-Youth Escort" will block political and religious websites and kill apps when users input "sensitive terms. The tool will also monitor personal communications, and track where users go online.

As noted in a previous BB post, the app has a secondary effect of exposing users to serious security vulnerabilities.

Snip from Crovitz' piece in the Journal:

In essence, bureaucrats in China want the world's computer makers to make it easier for their Thought Police to block access to news and information from the outside world, and to punish citizens for the sites they visit and the views they express online.

The pressure is on companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Apple, plus Lenovo, which bought IBM's PC business and whose largest shareholder is the Chinese government. The computer companies have kept a low profile, relying on trade associations to lobby Beijing to reconsider the regulations. Technologists would prefer just to be in the business of business, but politics is a fact of business life in China. (And even Chinese people who don't care about blocked information about Tiananmen or anonymity online will object if their new computers have kludgy software that is prone to crashing operating systems.)

Yet when the interests of foreign businesses coincide with the interests of the Chinese people, the kowtow may not be the only corporate option.

High Tech's Great Leap Backward: Will the world's computer makers kowtow to the Thought Police in Beijing? (Wall Street Journal, via @Rmack)