Today’s announcement from Google about a security breach originated from China is huge. Internet sites get hacked into all the time but this is the first time that the business strategy of a company in the market of the hackers’ country is being reconsidered. Google is no longer willing to censor its search engine in China. If the Chinese authorities would not allow Google to operate an uncensored search engine, the company is willing to leave China altogether. Google’s stock dropped a little following this but I think it is right move.

Google’s market share is much smaller than the home-grown search engine Baidu in China. If it is not gaining ground in the largest internet market of the world, does it make sense to continue pouring money into it? Even when Google was playing nice to censor its search engine, the Chinese authorities criticized the company for not doing a good enough job filtering “porn” last year. However, it was widely suspected that “porn” was an excuse for adding more limitations on the Chinese internet.

Google’s announcement provided quite a bit of details about the attack. It mentioned at least 20 other companies have also been targeted. Less than half an hour after Google released the big news, Adobe announced it has also experienced an attack. While Adobe did not clearly say the Chinese was the culprit, the timing following Google can only lead us to make our own conclusion.

Meanwhile, Baidu got messed with by the Iranians. Cyberspace is starting to look more like a rough neighborhood with rival gangs planning attacks on each other.

As a human rights activist, I have always been leery of my Web 2.0 activities. Today’s news is another dagger into my insecurities. I thought staying away from Facebook and blogging anonymously is good enough. Apparently, email from the Web 1.0 era has just as many loopholes. Personal privacy may soon become a privilege that we all have to fight to protect everyday.

Update (1-13-2010): Zeng Jinyan, the wife of imprisoned activist Hu Jia, sent out a tweet and photo to salute Google. Some people also showed up at Google’s office in Beijing with flowers to applaud Google (others have interpreted this as an early mourning of Google’s departure from China).

From Zeng Jinyan's Twitter: I don't have any flowers. I gathered all the candles at home to salute Google. I hope other software companies like Yahoo would follow Google to uphold their moral ethics.

Advertisements