With all the hubbub about Google pulling out of China (and especially now that the rumors have become official), almost everyone has formed an opinion. Google’s foray into politics has been received badly in China, even as their retreat from the country is being called heroic by many abroad. But the conversation has been focused on the issue of censorship, largely because Google itself defined things in those terms early on.
Still, I can’t help wondering if the world hasn’t missed the point here. Censorship, after all, will go on with or without Google’s consent. And since most American countries don’t sell things in danger of being censored, I find it hard to believe Google’s pullout is really going to lead to some mass exodus. What I do wonder is why everyone stopped caring about the fact that Google was hacked.
Probably that story was lost around the same time they announced the hackers came from the Lanxiang Vocational training school and the entire Chinese internet, as one, snorted with derisive laughter. Michael Anti, the former New York Times writer, called it “the biggest joke” he’d heard “all year” on his Twitter account. But the fact remains, Google was the victim of a highly sophisticated attack into, among other things, the email accounts of Chinese dissidents.
This is not to say that I support Google’s pulling out of China — I don’t. But it does concern me that this part of the story somehow disappeared, when — to me — it’s by far the most significant piece of the puzzle. One cannot ask a company whose success relies partially on its ability to keep private things private not to be angered by what certainly appears to be a government-run or at least government-motivated attack that violates that privacy. Of course, who exactly was behind the attacks is still up for grabs, and at this point, probably always will be. Still, a threat research VP at antivirus company McAfee said, “We have never ever, outside of the defense industry, seen commercial industrial companies come under that level of sophisticated attack.” It’s probably safe to say this wasn’t some netizens acting entirely on their own out of patriotic love of country.
Anyway, the point here is to poll all of you: what’s really important in this whole Google fiasco?