Thursday, January 14, 2010

Doing the Right Thing

"He who controls the present, controls the past, he who controls the past, controls the future." - George Orwell

Google's decision to remove censorship on search engine results in China coupled with it's threat to abandon a huge market there takes guts and integrity, something not often seen in big business. Also, it's a huge wake up call in terms of why no government should EVER be allowed to control the web in any fashion as the net is the last bastion of freedom man has.

"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."

After reading this, I am struck by the fact most politicians have little idea of just how smart the people who run the net are. The other interesting fact is: complex systems are fragile and easily broken especially when you have intelligent people doing the breaking. China could learn about this inconvenient truth in the near future if it continues to do the kind of crap they are doing because if their web environment is rendered isolated from the rest of the world, business will plummet there, a reality which could spark a revolution, something the leaders of China dread above all else in trying to move their country into super power status while maintaining dictatorial control over its citizens.

"Most of the bright people don't work for you -- no matter who you are." - Bill Joy


"Peoples Daily, citing a Cabinet official's comments in November, said companies must help the government keep the Internet safe and fight online pornography and cyberattacks.

Web companies must abide by "propaganda discipline," the official, Wang Chen, was quoted as saying. "Companies have to concretely increase the ability of Internet media to guide public opinion in order to uphold Internet safety."

Also Thursday, a law professor and human rights lawyer, Teng Biao, wrote on his blog that someone broke into his Gmail account and forwarded e-mail to another account. Teng said he did not know whether he was one of two Chinese activists mentioned by Google as hacking targets.

"Google leaving China makes people sad, but accepting censorship to stay in China and abandoning its `Don't Be Evil' principles is more than just sad," Teng wrote.

Another Beijing human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, says his Gmail account was hacked in November and important materials taken, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group announced. Jiang has represented Tibetan activists and advised people with AIDS who are seeking government help.

Outside the Google offices, some visitors poured small glasses of liquor, a Chinese funeral ritual.

One man left a copy of Peoples Daily, which he said represented the tightly controlled state media that China's public would be left with if Google pulls out and censorship continues.

"Google is the true hero in this silent city," said a note left outside the building in the capital's Haidian technology district. Referring to the government Web filter, popularly known as the "Great Firewall," another note said, "The tallest walls cannot divide people's sentiments. Google: Bye, let's meet on the other side of the wall."

Let the battle begin.
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