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Google Will Stop Censorship, May Pull out of China

In a move that could cause tremors in the still waters of Chinese human rights, Google is considering pulling out of the country.  A recent investigation has found that the content of Chinese human rights advocates has been systematically attacked and Google has apparently reached the end of their patience.

While this may in the end amount to nothing much at all, on the other hand it is conceivable that this may amount to a straw on the back of the Chinese camel.

Tom Krazit at CNET has the following report:

Google to stop censoring in China, may pull out

Google no longer intends to censor search results in China, and if the Chinese government balks, it may take its servers and go home.

The stunning change in Google’s policy toward doing business in China–which was always a complicated dance–came after Google discovered that it and other businesses were the victims of “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack” aimed at gathering information about human rights activists. It is not clear whether the Chinese government was behind the attacks, which Google said in a blog post were also directed against other U.S. companies.

This could lead to very interesting things.  Google’s Chief Legal Beagle – David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer – has these things to say in a blog post on Tuesday:

A new approach to China

1/12/2010 03:00:00 PM

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, 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. 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.

Third, 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. 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.