Google puts data security first; threatens China pullout, stops censoring results

Google puts data security first; threatens China pullout, stops censoring results

Summary: Google threatens China pullout, changes approach to censorship, as news of widespread attacks come to light.

SHARE:

Google said in a blog post today that it will consider shutting down its site in China and closing its offices, following a large scale attack on its corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of Google's intellectual property.

The company also issued a warning on its enterprise blog about keeping data safe and tried to squash any potential backlash on cloud computing by reminding users that these attacks were not an assault on cloud computing but rather an attack on "technology infrastructure."

It appears that the goal of the attackers was to gain access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. From what Google has discovered, the attack was mostly unsuccessful with only two accounts compromised - and in neither case were the content of the e-mails themselves compromised.

In a blog post, the company said it launched Google.cn in 2006 "in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results." At that time, the company promised to monitor conditions in China, including new laws and restrictions and that it would not hesitate to "reconsider our approach to China." Today, it went on notice to say that it will follow through with that promise. The company wrote today:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered - combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the Web - have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business 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. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn and potentially our offices in China.

That's a tough call, given the potential for business growth in the planet's most populated country. But Google is a global company and clearly it had to make a very difficult business decision - one that was made by executives in the U.S. without the knowledge or involvement of employees in China.

As Google ventures further into the cloud and works to bring the enterprise in with it, it has to remind itself that security is paramount, above all else. It cannot be taken lightly nor can it be allowed to be compromised for the sake of gaining ground in a particular market or region. Protecting user data must be the company's top priority.

Today, Google showed that data security is above all else. Rocking the boat with a country like China will certainly have long-lasting business implications for Google - but taking a bold stance also speaks volumes, especially as large companies, the very ones that Google needs as customers to gain ground in the enterprise space, have seen first-hand the extreme actions that Google is willing to take to keep data secure.

Topics: China, Browser, Enterprise Software, Google, Legal, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

22 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • China could care less

    Come on now, this has gotta be the worst bluff ever. Not even Obama / Pelosi / Geithner dare utter an word of "human right" when they visited China begging them for more treasury purchase. Google somehow think themselves having bigger egos than US government? Somebody in Mountain View forgot to check the reality.
    LBiege
    • Google admits it is helpless...

      It is not an issue of China hackers...but really an issue of the poor security of google and others against smart attackers be thay chinese, n. koreans, russians or even the us government, the latter who monitor a broad number of emails for specific words and phrases...remember bush and the wiretap issue?
      It is all about security, not who broke the door down!
      Bradish1
      • Will Google also threaten a US-pullout?

        I don't understand what all the brouhaha is about? Doesn't US government intercept and wiretap everything at will under the name of PATRIOT ACT? I don't see Google showing any outrage over there. It smells really fishy.
        LBiege
        • different

          There is a difference between catching emails as they flow through the internet than asking for emails at a specific location. It's like standing on the side of the road and watching cars drive by and asking a garage operator of you could go and in look in their customers cars.
          Al_nyc
    • Its principle that matters

      Its not ego, its not google that matters, its principle!!!!fullstop. Obama/Pelosi/Geithner are politicians who decides to tow the line, Google is a company who decides not to compromise its security principle.
      twainiqolo
  • Do no Evil

    Finally they seem to own up to it.

    Kudos!
    honeymonster
  • The US Government could help out

    with a B52 load of thousand-pound bombs on the Forbidden
    City.
    HollywoodDog
    • Reality Check

      Like that might "scratch" it.

      More like an LA slass sub with a boat load of nuke tipped tomahawks....
      rhonin
    • how would that help?

      You would end up having large US casualties since what you will mostly find in the Forbidden City is US tourists.
      Al_nyc
  • China has made his own searching machine

    most people in china don't even know google, since they have their OWN chinese searching machine, mailbox, etc.. the chinese government won't take this threat of google serious.
    superegg
    • Most likely not

      But I have to give kudos to Google for doing this.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • true

      Especially if they have taken the opportunity to steal Googles IP on how to run this type of business. That is how they do business. They invite a company to come set up shop and then just steal their IP and set up their own.
      Al_nyc
  • How would China pullout improve Google's security?

    Google will still be attacked the same way as long as they are connected to the Internet, regardless of whether they have office/servers physically located in China or not. Am I right? Then Google is just using this as an excuse to gain back their political reputation instead of simply admitting defeat by Baidu in China.
    cool_techie
    • this was exactly my thought

      That's exactly what I've thought. I don't get the whole point of this. Then, saying that they will unsensor searches according to the law? WTF???? I mean, China couldn't care less about Google leaving, all the contrary. They have their own search machine.
      patibulo
  • RE: Google threatens China pullout, stops censoring results

    Wow...that is best information for me..and all
    Stops Cencorsing
    http://www.free-tvonline.co.tv/
    http://www.free-tvonline.co.tv/
    http://www.free-tvonline.co.tv/
    Cullecck Makovix
  • RE: Google threatens China pullout, stops censoring results

    ?????????????
    shnkyy
  • What was Google trying to say exactly?

    It's like they were trying to tell us something but they couldn't. Instead, they decided to beat around the bush and nitpicked here and there.

    Is there anything that they knew of but they couldn't post on the blog? What was the hidden message here?
    Dealing
    • "We are the loser in China"

      That's what they want to say, but wants an excuse to look good - a politically correct loser. They claim the main targets are email accounts, then why do they also say another 20 companies were also attacked - for email accounts also? I don't think these are also email hosting companies. Obviously google is manipulating the facts.
      cool_techie
  • Let me rephrase

    This is what Google was trying to say:

    "We have realized that it costs a lot of money to monitor and censor sites that Chineese government doesn't like. They have their own search machine, which in China happens to be more popular than ours. When the Chineese government asked us to open up these emails accounts and we refused, they've cybered attacked us. It has all become very costly and non-profitable.

    Of course there is no freaking way that we will be able to operate a non-sensored search machine. But we will make that statement as a justification of why we will eventually leave China, without mentioning that we've failed in the original risk asesment."
    patibulo
    • good translation

      NT
      Al_nyc