Feature

Google

Selling its soul to China?

So much for 'œDon't be evil,' said Frida Ghitis in The Miami Herald. Google's famous motto officially became obsolete last week, when the company launched a heavily censored version of its search engine in China—the price of doing business in a vast new market. On Google.cn, users seeking information about democracy, Tiananmen Square, homosexuality, and thousands of other topics will find only Web sites approved by the Chinese regime—or none at all. This is obviously a betrayal of the Chinese people, but Google users everywhere should be alarmed. Google can save 'œevery search, every e-mail, every fingerprint we leave on the Web.' The company is vastly popular because we assume it will protect our privacy. Now we can't be so sure. 'œWhen a company that holds digital dossiers on millions of people decides that profits are more important than principles, we are all at risk.'

Welcome to the real world, said Mike Langberg in the San Jose Mercury News. Sometimes, compromise is necessary, and Google made a good one. The company had a choice: operate under China's terms, or deprive the Chinese people of its powerful Internet search tools. 'œThe lesser evil of knuckling under to China's odious censorship rules is outweighed by the greater good of providing Google to China's population of 1.3 billion.' Not only that, said Sebastian Mallaby in The Washington Post, Google took some gutsy stands that deserve our praise. It refused to open its blogging and e-mail services in China, because it didn't trust the Chinese not to snoop on users. And Google insisted on the right to alert users when information is withheld from search results. That's significant. 'œIf people know they are being brainwashed, then they are not being brainwashed.'

John Gapper

London Financial Times

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