Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Google's New Approach to China

I am truly amazed and impressed with Google today. Their candid account of Chinese cyber espionage activities on their network is significant simply because they are the rare company willing to disclose this type of activity. Additionally, Google's willingness to reassess their business operations in China shows that they are willing to move beyond mere rhetorical protestrations. Google appears to be the first Internet company willing to stand up to China and protect Internet free speech. Great job Google!

UPDATE (1/13/10): It could just be a coincidence that on the same day that Google announced targeted attacks on its infrastructure at GMail users they also announced that GMail will use HTTPS by default. No matter the reason this also good news for GMail users. Free security for everyone! Yeah!

1 comment:

Katherine Scholle said...

Google has impressed me a lot too with their handling of the China situation over the past couple of months. They have been more open and honest with their users than any other Internet company.

I read their 2006 testimony before Congress the other day, in which their VP outlined exactly what their reasoning was in creating google.cn.
I thought it was pretty refreshing the extent to which they were willing to discuss how self censorship was at odds with their values, particularly their informal mantra "Don't Be Evil." I think it speaks to how much they as a company take their brand values seriously and hold themselves to account for them.

I think their candidness, both in 2006 and this year when they decided to stop complying with Chinese censorship laws, surprised a lot of people. It's also brought to public attention the extent to which other companies like Microsoft and Yahoo have NOT done that. It's really put those companies to shame. Much of the coverage I've read of Google's decision to cut ties with China has compared Google to the other countries who continue to cooperate with the Chinese government. Some may have forgotten about the fact that Yahoo handed over a Chinese human rights activist to the Chinese government in 2005, but the media is certainly reminding them of it now.

I feel like we have pretty low expectations of Internet companies, and the idea of corporate social responsibility seems kind of irrelevant these days. The assumption is that they're just looking out for their bottom line, and we can't expect more than that. I think Google's actions have made people feel like we actually can expect large companies to hold themselves to high standards in terms of their business practices.