Google/China flap extends its Korean policy

Google's willingness to move out of China appears to be part of a new 'borderless' policy first used in Korea.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Google's new found willingness to pull out of China because of hacking attempts by agents of the Chinese government doesn't make sense.

Why would the Chinese government seek information through hacking? It could give Google a legal order to divulge specific information and Google would comply, as it has done countless times in the past, not only in China but in other countries including the US.

Time and again Google's top executives have said they comply with all laws within each country.

Also, the hacking attempts were rebuffed. Google's security technology successfully prevented the attacks.

David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer reported:

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.

...accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.

Google could have remained in China confident that its technology protected its users.

The question remains is why now? Google could have taken a stand on human rights in China on many occasions in the past.

In a Tweet yesterday, Bobbie Johnson, a reporter for the UK based Guardian newspaper, pointed out:"Goog acted after its rights were infringed, not the rights of its users."

But even this doesn't explain why Google has found its backbone and made a stand now. It has to be because it has a new policy, one that it tested last year in Korea.

And it's a policy in which Google is able to take advantage of the global nature of the Internet to thwart any national ambitions -- no matter how large.

We first saw this new policy at work last year in South Korea where the government has passed a new law that requires users posting video, or comments on large web sites to use their real names. Web site operators must collect and verify users names. The "real-name" law is designed to clamp down on government critics.

What did Google do? When the deadline arrived for the new law to be implemented, it blocked Korean users uploading videos or leaving comments on its Korean YouTube site. It told them to use YouTube sites in other countries.

[You can read my news report here: Google Is Facing Wrath Of Korean Government Over Snub Of Internet Law]

It neatly sidestepped the law by making use of the global nature of the Internet. It showed the limits of government power and its jurisdiction -- the Internet is global and beyond the reach of any one country.

Based on its Korean experience, Google is gaining in confidence that it can stick to its principles and stay clear of any repressive government policies, anywhere, by taking advantage of the global Internet.

It can stay beyond the reach of any government, including the US if it has to, by moving its HQ and its operations around the world. It has more than 50 data centers all over the world.

This is a watershed moment and one that governments everywhere must be paying close attention to because it demonstrates that when its citizens engage with the Internet, it is a world without borders and where building borders is futile. [China's "Great Firewall" is very porous.]

That's a frightening scenario for any government especially a Chinese government wary of any competition for the hearts and minds of its citizens. And the Internet is its largest source of competitive ideas.

With China, Google is making a bet that there is a business and moral value in an unfiltered Internet, an Internet that is larger than the borders of any one country. I'm pretty sure we already know who's right.

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Please see:

Hilary Clinton: Statement on Google Operations in China

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