Google’s Continued Presence in China in Question

In a fascinating CNBC interview with Google’s Chief Legal Office, David Drummond, it appears that Google may close its operations in China.

There have been several cyber attacks on large companies, such as Google and other Internet related companies, from within China.  Specifically, these “sophisticated attacks” were geared towards email communications of human right advocates from around the world, including China, the United States and throughout Europe.  While Mr. Drummond did not openly accuse the Chinese government of trying to hack into Gmail (instead he playing down the Chinese government’s connection), it seems that Google suspects some Chinese government involvement.

Mr. Drummond stated that most of the attacks were warded off, and only two email accounts were broken into.  The hackers only viewed the subject headings and the list of contacts; none of the email’s contents were touched.  It was unclear whether Google prevented the hackers from viewing the content, or if the hackers purposely chose not to view the email’s content.

While they do not want to shut down operations, Google is prepared to walk and not have a local Chinese web site presence.  China makes up a small large portion in Google’s finances, so money is not a factor. In fact, Mr. Drummond stated that Google hoped to help loosen the Chinese government’s current censorship practices just a little.

The interviewer asked if Google was taking a stance against censorship, and the Mr. Drummond said yes. They thought their presence would help open China, and that benefits would out weight the uncomfortableness of self-censorship the Chinese government required.

Google will likely stay in China as long as there are no additional censorship regulations placed on the company by the Chinese government.  Mr. Drummond stated that,

“If it got more difficult to operate there, if we were faced with more laws and regulations, and they made it so we thought we could no longer operate there in accordance with our values, we would shift gears.  And we are prepared to do that [to pull out].”

It is impressive that Google is willing to place ethical principles and values over money.  Mr. Drummond also said that his company was founded on ethical principles, and that “you can do well and do good” instead of just making money.

There have not been any formal discussions yet with Chinese government officials since these attacks happened.


About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on January 13, 2010, in Censorship, Ethics, Google, Privacy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Here is a follow up from the NY Times about this Google Cyber attack situation:

    It certainly appears that Google suspects the Chinese government’s involvement in the attacks.

  2. The latest news on this topic says that there is strong evidence that the cyber attacks were of Chinese origin.

    “A malware specialist said the software used in an attack on Google contained a module based on an algorithm from a Chinese-authored technical paper.”


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