China demands new PCs carry spyware

China demands new PCs carry spyware

Summary: There comes a time when despite the allure of the market, Western industry should band together and turn its back on China. A time when the computer and Internet industry realizes that the censorship-and-repression tax the government is intent on levying is too high a price to pay.

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There comes a time when despite the allure of the market, Western industry should band together and turn its back on China. A time when the computer and Internet industry realizes that the censorship-and-repression tax the government is intent on levying is too high a price to pay.

Is this, at long last, that moment? Well, it's doubtful. But it should be.

Starting July 1, computers sold in China must include government-provided spyware that blocks pornography and political dissent from Chinese citizens' view, The New York Times reports, following up a Wall Street Journal report.

Called “Green Dam” — green being a foil to the yellow smut of pornography — the software is designed to filter out sexually explicit images and words, according to the company that designed it. Computer experts, however, warn that once installed, the software could be directed to block all manner of content or allow the government to monitor Internet use and collect personal information.

PC makers are said to be irritated with the new rules but presumably not enough to buck the government. The major irritation seems to be that July 1 isn't enough time to add the software to massive production lines.

Beyond the nettlesome issue of abetting government censorship, they said six weeks was not enough time to shift production on such a large scale. “Many of us are going to take it in the neck with this mandate,” said one executive. “It has put people into five-alarm mode.”

Still executives met with the U.S. Embassy to express displeasure. If they're serious, though, they need to do this, says Rebecca McKinnon:

  • Provide the software on disk rather than pre-installed.
  • Include clear information to the user about what the software does, the nature and range of content it filters, how the user's personal information is collected and transmitted, where it is stored and who has access to it.
  • Explain what the software does differently from existing parental controls already included in the operating system.
  • Include further information about any further vulnerabilities the software contains which could open the user's computer to attack or snooping.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to deactivate or uninstall the software along with the installation guidelines.

It's pretty clear that's not how China wants this to go down. This little anecdote from the Times says it all.

On Monday, Green Dam’s own website offered a hint of discontent over the filtering software. On the bulletin board section of the site, several users complained that pornographic images slipped through or that their computers had become painfully slow. “It seems pretty lousy so far,” read one posting. “It’s not very powerful, I can’t surf the Internet normally and it’s affecting the operation of other software.”

By Monday night, however, most of the comments had been deleted.

Topics: CXO, Browser, China, Software, Security, Malware, Hardware, Government US, Government, IT Employment

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38 comments
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  • I don't think that anyone thinks that

    China's government has changed its position on
    freedom of speech.
    xXSpeedzXx
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    Wait for something like this to come our way in the US. Except under the guise of protection against software piracy.
    dezdiggler
    • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

      Can you say: Lenovo?
      Mark.Eichman
    • Coming our way in the U.S.

      What makes you think we don't already have it in
      the U.S.? If you were to compare spying expertise,
      just off the top of your head, who would you say
      is better at it, China or the U.S.?
      jpgeorgia
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    How long till China starts embedding similar code into the hardware of the PC?
    jvandiveer@...
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    In the name of Homeland Security and an easy way to avoid those pesky criticisms of the Dear Leader in DC. All criticism of policies are "hate-speach".
    angryDad
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    I guess western governments could keep Chinese hackers out of their systems by just adding porn to all their websites.

    They could also get a copy of the software and use it for spying on the Chinese.

    Could be interesting.
    HooNoze
  • Rights of one group over the free world waves

    This is probably an interesting growing pain of a maturing mankind.
    One one hand, a group/nation with its own culture wants to preserve and protect its culture and wants to enable it to mature at its own pace would surely want to block the unmonitored filth that we in the west allow own media to carry.
    On the other hand, the so called capitalistic world does allow this to happen.
    Now, based on what our dear leader, Obama has said, that we shall lead with our values and how we gain trust due to these strong values, where is the deed to these words.
    Should a great leader always follow his words with deeds? I hope he does,!.
    Yes there is a possible twist to this story, World dominance, knowing a little how the Chinese think, due to their lack of creativity (only able to copy) the have this inferiority complex that would always seem to dominate with their strength, which is Money, thus this spyware could probably be their way of world dominance, something the US Govt, should be aware off.
    Frankly I dont think they have matured to sit in the world table, specially since most of their population is still struggling.??? Those are signs of a dictatorship in rule, not a healthy government.
    Those were my 2 cents,
    Nash, Montreal
    nashkrish
  • Content blocked between US and Canada

    I don't agree with censorship but it's going on here in the good ol' North-America too. If a 'repressive' government restricts content it's censorship - if it's a corporation it's called clever marketing.

    As a Canadian I'm being blocked off various US web sites for whatever political and financial/marketing reasons.
    Companies are trying to force consumers to their localized web sites ie. www.company.ca, or local distributors. They don't want Canadians to find out about products or features not being available to Canadians, or the lower prices offered in the US. Automakers are being forced to market small, environmentally efficient, cars in certain markets but not wanting that leaked in the US all vehicle specifications could be either blocked or substituted for 'localized' specifications (MPG, for example).
    olngrumpy
    • re: Content blocked between US and Canada

      Not quite the same thing at all. You're talking about business to business agreements and legitimate marketing rights, not the monitoring of 1.3 billion people.
      NerdSeven
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    As with all things dealing with computing and information. Those who want in bad enough will find a way to get it. And I feel no software is powerful enough to prevent this. China will realize it's efforts are futile and either pursue legal action or completely cut the cord to the world and run it's own network.
    fiercefire
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    Indeed it would be simple to include such software in the BIOS of every computer manufactured in China, even if it isn't sold there. This is Big Brother come to life. Do you want to be tracked every time you connect to the Internet? If I were Lenovo or Asus or any other manufacturer in China, I would be very concerned for what this can do to sales. Even if they don't include this as firmware, the perception that they might will make sales drop like a rock.
    guygo
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    Lets not forget that China is a Communist country. The West spent trillions of dollars fighting and eventually winning the cold war. China has changed its spots a bit by allowing some free market ideas in and we in the West very quickly lost focus that the underlying Marxist principles that guide China nd used to guide the Soviet Union are still there. Since the Chinese have cleverly changed the game by allowing somr free market reform we need to modify our behavior now and avoid buying anything (Including all Western Companies that manufacture in China) made in China until the Chinese drop a failed ideology and take the next step and allow Freedom of speech and Democracy.
    sdoherty@...
    • Let China do what it wants but...

      How long till those "Chinese" computers end up
      outside of China. Never mind that the same
      internals can end up anywhere...

      Next "software" fix: a program that finds the
      "Chinese" spyware...

      rhonin
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    I see no problem including the chineese software on the computer sold in China. There are however no rules saying that a un-install program cannot be sold or included in th O/S for those that do not want thier government abusing their rights to privacy. Upon installing or first use of O/S have directive ask user if they want to un-install that program. amke it an option in the internet options program pop-up. Or just include an auto de-installer that activate after an certain nukmber of usees by the buyer or when they verify their licensed copy of the O/S. For every problem, there are many solutions. Use them and stop whining about those that cannot help but try to control all those around them. Frredom is not free and must be constantly earned.
    nocroman@...
  • Lets Not BECOME CHINA?

    However, since Walmart and the other major suppliers are NOW CHINESE.

    We should start to think about building our American Society again.

    Please start grass roots efforts to build America from Scratch, since everything we had has been traded or sold to FOREIGN INTERESTS.

    Kick out the once American Corporations NOW, so that Americans can once again start businesses.

    thnks,
    Mike
    miraclemike
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    They should also install anti-spyware software and
    let them duke it out.
    jpgeorgia
  • Finally somone remembers that China is a brutal government

    With every company in the US whoring themselves to china, it's nice to finally hear a writer with the nerve to stand up and something about this repressive, controlling and brutal government.

    Thanks Richard.
    mick@...
    • Are you kidding

      America always preach these high ideals about freedom and justice and morality but are always the first in line to sell their souls for silver and gold. The fact china has a brutal government is irreverent, all that matters is that their checks dont bounce.
      LordFlashHeart
  • RE: China demands new PCs carry spyware

    look , have you seen Fahrenheit 451 ...
    in essence it is the same...
    maybe someone will write a sw that might cripple the new spyware
    iglooo101