Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

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Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby scikidus » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:34 pm UTC

Hot off the presses at the Google Blog:
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.

We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more here about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks can read this U.S. government report (PDF), Nart Villeneuve's blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.

We launched Google.cn in January 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 the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

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.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.

Posted by David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer

I'm glad to see Google putting human rights before business politics. Now the question becomes, which is better: censored Chinese Google, or no Chinese Google at all?
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Marbas » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:39 pm UTC

Google. Wow. I am so damn proud of you. You know, I was kind of amused when I heard their motto was "don't be evil". But I'm impressed now.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:25 am UTC

Would you look at that, they're being not evil.

And would you look at that, the PRC has some cyber-CIA shit going to monitor human-rights advocates. That's pretty evil. I mean, I'm no great advocate of human-rights advocates (they like to look under the streetlamp for the set of keys they lost in the dark), but you don't gotta stalk them and break into their email. You just ignore all recommendations that you don't agree with. Come on people, even evil is supposed to have standards (WARNING: link goes to TVTropes).
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby SirHoundalot » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:36 am UTC

Great stuff. I really hope that they don't end up pulling out of China completely though; although I of course appreciate the dangers of censorship, Google facilitates access to such a wealth of information that I can't help but think it should be there in some capacity.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Marquee Moon » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:43 am UTC

It's great that we all feel warm and fuzzy inside because Google has stopped dealing with the evil Chinese government, but what's more important is the welfare of the Chinese citizenry. As scikidus said, which is better for the Chinese people: censored Google, or no Google at all? This is a very complicated situation and ideas like "don't be evil" or "don't cooperate with evil people" are, I think, too simplistic. Personally I think they should Google.cn up and running, but I'm sure the people at Google doing this review thingy are much smarter than me.

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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:51 am UTC

Wow. Just wow. I'm impressed. They are risking the entire Chinese market over this. For such a big company to pick ethics over profit, that's truly something.

Perhaps there is still hope for humanity after all.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:58 am UTC

Marquee Moon wrote:It's great that we all feel warm and fuzzy inside because Google has stopped dealing with the evil Chinese government, but what's more important is the welfare of the Chinese citizenry. As scikidus said, which is better for the Chinese people: censored Google, or no Google at all? This is a very complicated situation and ideas like "don't be evil" or "don't cooperate with evil people" are, I think, too simplistic. Personally I think they should Google.cn up and running, but I'm sure the people at Google doing this review thingy are much smarter than me.

Don't you think the PRC government is a bit... Wolfram & Hart, though?

EDIT: Everyone who has no idea what that is can use Google.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Roĝer » Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:11 am UTC

This seems first and foremost a threat toward the Chinese government. And of course I hope that Google and China can work this out, rather than having China not have The Google. But it's a private company, they are free to do as they please.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Duban » Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:18 am UTC

I wouldn't go so far to call the Chinese government "evil". I think they honestly believe that they are doing the right thing by butting into every aspect of their citizen's lives. They censor video games in the same exact way pertaining to things that aren't directly opposed to their government. I would call them harmfully overprotective and blinded by the idea that things they oppose are evil or mind poison before calling them evil.

Still, it's nice to see a major company thinking of ethics rather then pure profit. Google has always struck me as the company that does what it does for the sake of technology and nerdiness rather then to become billionaires. "Nerdiness" being meant in a good way, to the people who frequent these boards anyways.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby PhoenixRider » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:46 am UTC

Duban wrote:I wouldn't go so far to call the Chinese government "evil". I think they honestly believe that they are doing the right thing by butting into every aspect of their citizen's lives. They censor video games in the same exact way pertaining to things that aren't directly opposed to their government. I would call them harmfully overprotective and blinded by the idea that things they oppose are evil or mind poison before calling them evil.

Still, it's nice to see a major company thinking of ethics rather then pure profit. Google has always struck me as the company that does what it does for the sake of technology and nerdiness rather then to become billionaires. "Nerdiness" being meant in a good way, to the people who frequent these boards anyways.

Yeah I'd agree with this.
China doesn't seem to care much about individual rights and believe that the ends justify the means. That by invading the privacy and taking the rights away from others will result in higher security. Of course this is absolutely wrong, but I wouldn't go running around calling disagreeable nations "evil".

Awesome on Google's part, but I wonder if this will be beneficial in the long run, when China becomes a democracy.

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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Marquee Moon » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:06 am UTC

Diadem wrote:Wow. Just wow. I'm impressed. They are risking the entire Chinese market over this. For such a big company to pick ethics over profit, that's truly something.

Perhaps there is still hope for humanity after all.


The thing is, Google earns its profits by providing its users with a very valuable service, access to information. Not only are they picking ethics over profit, they're also picking ethics over providing the Chinese people access to information. At which point, it's not very clear what 'ethics' means, and if it's something we want.

aleflamedyud wrote:
Marquee Moon wrote:It's great that we all feel warm and fuzzy inside because Google has stopped dealing with the evil Chinese government, but what's more important is the welfare of the Chinese citizenry. As scikidus said, which is better for the Chinese people: censored Google, or no Google at all? This is a very complicated situation and ideas like "don't be evil" or "don't cooperate with evil people" are, I think, too simplistic. Personally I think they should Google.cn up and running, but I'm sure the people at Google doing this review thingy are much smarter than me.

Don't you think the PRC government is a bit... Wolfram & Hart, though?

EDIT: Everyone who has no idea what that is can use Google.


Uhh, I agree that the Chinese government does a lot of bad things, if that's what you mean. But it's not clear that shutting down Google.cn will actually improve the lives of anyone in China. It might make us think "Go us, standing up to the oppressive Chinese government, standing side-by-side with those brave Chinese dissidents", but outside of our heads, what does it actually achieve?

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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Freakish » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:23 am UTC

I'm not happy with Google after finding out they don't give you predictions for "Islam is...."
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby EmptySet » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:46 am UTC

Well, Google is a large and profitable company, and according to them many other major companies have also been attacked. If enough of these companies refused to do business with China, it would have an impact on the Chinese economy. Also, by making this announcement, Google is bringing the matter to public attention. This could in turn lead to public opposition to China's policies, and possibly pressure on foreign governments to reduce trade with China to avoid controversy. It could even be viewed as a threat to national security, given the concerns many governments still have about terrorism.

Anyway, if companies start pulling out of China and people start boycotting Chinese goods, the Chinese government may have to choose between changing their policies and watching their economy implode. Though I don't think that this scandal alone would be enough to cause that, unless it becomes clear that the attacks are far greater in extent than currently seems the case.

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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby fjafjan » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:49 am UTC

PhoenixRider wrote:
Duban wrote:I wouldn't go so far to call the Chinese government "evil". I think they honestly believe that they are doing the right thing by butting into every aspect of their citizen's lives. They censor video games in the same exact way pertaining to things that aren't directly opposed to their government. I would call them harmfully overprotective and blinded by the idea that things they oppose are evil or mind poison before calling them evil.

Still, it's nice to see a major company thinking of ethics rather then pure profit. Google has always struck me as the company that does what it does for the sake of technology and nerdiness rather then to become billionaires. "Nerdiness" being meant in a good way, to the people who frequent these boards anyways.

Yeah I'd agree with this.
China doesn't seem to care much about individual rights and believe that the ends justify the means. That by invading the privacy and taking the rights away from others will result in higher security. Of course this is absolutely wrong, but I wouldn't go running around calling disagreeable nations "evil".

Awesome on Google's part, but I wonder if this will be beneficial in the long run, when China becomes a democracy.

Oh please, the communist party allows no dissent, torture people who do, and spreads propaganda to convince people they are doing the right thing. The people leading this might think they are doing it for a greater good, but so did Stalin, it has no bearing on your morality of what your intentions are.

I am impressed by Google, and I think this is a strong statement. It is hard to say what the best way to change a society is though.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Amora » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:56 am UTC

EmptySet wrote:if companies start pulling out of China and people start boycotting Chinese goods

Is there even a glimmer of hope that this will ever happen?
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Not A Raptor » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:02 am UTC

Amora wrote:
EmptySet wrote:if companies start pulling out of China and people start boycotting Chinese goods

Is there even a glimmer of hope that this will ever happen?

There is a scientific experiment in the works to send a snowball to the sun so that we might tell how likely it is. If the snowball doesn't melt vaporize, it's likely!
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:14 am UTC

I wonder if part of the reason Google might withdraw* from China is risk management. It's been clearly demonstrated now that the PRC views Google.cn as fair game, and that presumably would have an impact on any risk/reward analysis for continued operation in China.


*I get the sense that this is less a "/raegquaat china" then a "Fuck your rules. We won't censor, although that will probably get us shut down in your country"
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:52 am UTC

PhoenixEnigma wrote:I wonder if part of the reason Google might withdraw* from China is risk management. It's been clearly demonstrated now that the PRC views Google.cn as fair game, and that presumably would have an impact on any risk/reward analysis for continued operation in China.


*I get the sense that this is less a "/raegquaat china" then a "Fuck your rules. We won't censor, although that will probably get us shut down in your country"
They've operated in China for several years under the belief that censored Google is better than no Google. This is pretty clearly a raegquaat, or at least a "look, we're not going to take this treatment; either you allow uncensored access through Google or we're going home."
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Negated » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:20 am UTC

Google is fine with Chinese censorship. But Google also know that if they keep complying with demands and abuses from Chinese government, they risk losing faith and support from people elsewhere. What Google really says is "this is enough, I cannot afford to give you more ground," hoping that the Chinese will step back (unlikely) and stop harming their reputation. I see this more of a bargaining move than a voice for human rights and freedom of speech.

It is a good move by Google, but the Chinese probably don't care.

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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:55 am UTC

Marquee Moon wrote:
Diadem wrote:Wow. Just wow. I'm impressed. They are risking the entire Chinese market over this. For such a big company to pick ethics over profit, that's truly something.

Perhaps there is still hope for humanity after all.

The thing is, Google earns its profits by providing its users with a very valuable service, access to information. Not only are they picking ethics over profit, they're also picking ethics over providing the Chinese people access to information. At which point, it's not very clear what 'ethics' means, and if it's something we want.

So when China deals with the Chinese government and censors some of its search results, they get criticized. And then when they get out, they again get criticized. There is just no satisfying some people.

Anyway, what you are saying has been exactly google's position for the last few years. Access to information is important enough to turn a blind eye to a few ethics violations. An understandable position. But if the ethics violations become too big or too frequent, you have to reevaluate this position. You can't turn a blind eye to anything and everything. You have to draw a line somewhere.

And they are, it seems, drawing the line right here.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Sizik » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:37 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:So when China deals with the Chinese government and censors some of its search results, they get criticized. And then when they get out, they again get criticized. There is just no satisfying some people.


Who says it's the same people?
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:18 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:You can't turn a blind eye to anything and everything. You have to draw a line somewhere.

And they are, it seems, drawing the line right here.

Yeah, I'm somewhat baffled by the people who think this is a completely hypocritical or irrational position for Google to take. I can see disagreeing with them about where that line should be, sure, but there is a line somewhere and they've decided it's between censoring their results a bit and operating in a country where their email accounts are under systematic attacks by what is probably the government itself.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Dauric » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:36 pm UTC

I think it's less an overt case of ethics, though that plays a part in it, and more a matter that Google bent over backwards to accommodate the PRC government to get any Google service in China at all and in return they get hacked by the very same government. The Chinese government may find this behavior normal, even necessary, but Google's well within their rights to say "Not cool man, we're gonna have to have a talk about this." with the -possibility- that they may withdraw their Chinese offices.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:10 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:I think it's less an overt case of ethics, though that plays a part in it, and more a matter that Google bent over backwards to accommodate the PRC government to get any Google service in China at all and in return they get hacked by the very same government. The Chinese government may find this behavior normal, even necessary, but Google's well within their rights to say "Not cool man, we're gonna have to have a talk about this." with the -possibility- that they may withdraw their Chinese offices.

In most of the world that's not China we consider having our servers and databases hacked and our data stolen a real violation of our rights. I think Google is standing up to the Chinese government and saying, "We're a private business. We altered our results for your policies, but if you continue to treat us like your little bitches we can go home, and you can go without our years of refinements to basic search algorithms."
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Indon » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:16 pm UTC

This strikes me as the closest thing yet in human history to a declaration of cyberwar between two soverign powers (a country and an international megacorp, in this case).
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:24 pm UTC

That depends on how the Chinese respond.

And I'm a bit worried about that. The timing is very unfortunate. Thanks to the economic crises, Chinai s basically running the white house. So google can not expect much help from the US government. Which means that China has little to lose by playing this aggresively.

Google has deep pockets, and probably superior programming skills. But do they want to invest all that in ethics, instead of making profit? China meanwhile has even deeper pockets, and every reason to try to dictate their will to the internet.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Indon » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:27 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:That depends on how the Chinese respond.

And I'm a bit worried about that. The timing is very unfortunate. Thanks to the economic crises, Chinai s basically running the white house. So google can not expect much help from the US government. Which means that China has little to lose by playing this aggresively.

Google has deep pockets, and probably superior programming skills. But do they want to invest all that in ethics, instead of making profit? China meanwhile has even deeper pockets, and every reason to try to dictate their will to the internet.


Well, I dunno, it could be profitable.

What would Google get if they, say, organize and launch a democratic revolution in China?
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Will » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:31 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:Google has deep pockets, and probably superior programming skills. But do they want to invest all that in ethics, instead of making profit?

Here's a fun fact* about Google's operation in China: it's not profitable. They've spent millions on development to break into the Chinese market and for various reasons (including government protectionism of local corporations) haven't gotten a return on their investment yet. Pardon me for injecting some cynicism into this thread, but in this instance getting out of the Chinese market may be the best business move. These attacks simply give Google the ability to claim the moral high ground while doing it. I know it's speculation, but I have a hard time believing that if the business situation were different, and Google were making money hand over fist in China, that they'd be quite as eager to "reconsider their approach" in light of this situation.

* This fact comes from one of my coworkers, so feel free to fact-check me on this.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:31 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
Diadem wrote:That depends on how the Chinese respond.

And I'm a bit worried about that. The timing is very unfortunate. Thanks to the economic crises, Chinai s basically running the white house. So google can not expect much help from the US government. Which means that China has little to lose by playing this aggresively.

Google has deep pockets, and probably superior programming skills. But do they want to invest all that in ethics, instead of making profit? China meanwhile has even deeper pockets, and every reason to try to dictate their will to the internet.


Well, I dunno, it could be profitable.

What would Google get if they, say, organize and launch a democratic revolution in China?

There won't be a democratic revolution in China as long as the money keeps flowing in and raising the standard of living.

Also, woot, cyberwar.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:45 pm UTC

If google started a cyberwar division, they could become the first megacompany in modern times to have a private army. Awesome.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Philwelch » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:10 pm UTC

Breaking news from the State Department
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 12, 2010
We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions. We look to the Chinese government for an explanation. The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy. I will be giving an address next week on the centrality of internet freedom in the 21st century, and we will have further comment on this matter as the facts become clear.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Zamfir » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:25 pm UTC

If Google pulls out of China, what's stopping the PRC from continuing their attacks on gmail accounts?


If the NSA tries the same, and they must have at least considered it, will Google pull out of the US market?

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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby fjafjan » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:33 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:If google started a cyberwar division, they could become the first megacompany in modern times to have a private army. Awesome.

[citation needed]
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Indon » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:26 pm UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:There won't be a democratic revolution in China as long as the money keeps flowing in and raising the standard of living.


I don't think that the issue is as simple as being able to appease the burgouise (sp) with trinkets, like has been implied in FP.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby BlackSails » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:49 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:If the NSA tries the same, and they must have at least considered it, will Google pull out of the US market?


The NSA probably has half of google in their employ already.

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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby CueBall » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:53 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:
Zamfir wrote:If the NSA tries the same, and they must have at least considered it, will Google pull out of the US market?


The NSA probably has half of google in their employ already.


[Citation Needed]
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Kulantan » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:04 pm UTC

CueBall wrote:
BlackSails wrote:
Zamfir wrote:If the NSA tries the same, and they must have at least considered it, will Google pull out of the US market?


The NSA probably has half of google in their employ already.


[Citation Needed]


I don't have a citation... do you want this tinfoil hat instead? It's very shiny and guaranteed to keep the rays out of your head.

That said, I would be surprised if Echelon or whatever those crazy sigint kids are calling themselves these days don't intercept gmail.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Box Boy » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:34 pm UTC

fjafjan wrote:
Diadem wrote:If google started a cyberwar division, they could become the first megacompany in modern times to have a private army. Awesome.

[citation needed]

Then they'll be the first one who control the internet as well.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:47 pm UTC

fjafjan wrote:
Diadem wrote:If google started a cyberwar division, they could become the first megacompany in modern times to have a private army. Awesome.

[citation needed]

A citation that most companies don't employ private armies? Ehmm.. Ok, right after I'm done finding a citation that the moon is not made of cheese.
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Re: Google to Reconsider Chinese "Approach"

Postby The Reaper » Thu Jan 14, 2010 12:00 am UTC

Of all the people to try to start a cyberwar with, I choose google the least... :\


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