Big news from Google today announcing a “new approach to China” as a result of cyber attacks they’ve launched against Google and others. The news is early and incomplete, and we’ll certainly learn more in the coming days.
But reaction seems to be divided in to these two camps (roughly):
- Wow, Google is so great and they really aren’t evil
- Wow, what a cynical ploy by Google to cover up the fact Baidu is kicking their ass
I haven’t seen anyone really grappling with the astonishing facts Google alleges. Here’s a taste from their post:
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….
Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists
In short: China apparently initiated cyber attacks against Google and apparently other corporations and institutions to help them hunt down human rights activists. If that’s true, it’s wrong, offensive, and reprehensible. And people should say so, without equivocation.
Now, there are China apologists out there already beginning the lectures: “That’s not how you do business in China.” “Google should know better and do this behind closed doors.” Having spent some time in China this decade, I’ve heard that lecture a zillion times. And I understand and appreciate it when it comes to normal and quotidien matters of business.
But this isn’t about setting up a tire factory or arranging to manufacture gadgets. This is about the government of China (or so Google alleges) launching cyber attacks against companies and institutions in other countries as part of an effort to crack down on their own citizens and their effort to secure basic human freedoms — of religion, speech, organization.
As I’ve written before on this blog, this is a defining moral issue of our time if you’re a technologist, tech writer, or member in some other way of this community. I love to see the world in grays, but this is one of those issues that is purely black and white. And if you in any way side with China, or advocate a position that excuses their behavior — well, I think that’s just utterly immoral and you should be ashamed.