Google to quit China?


Google is threatening to pull out of China following hackers targeting Gmail accounts of human rights campaigners.

A blog post from David Drummond, the company's senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, admitted that Google had been a victim of a cyber attack in mid-December originating from China, which resulted in the loss of intellectual property.

However, more worrying was the claim that Google had discovered a number of accounts both Chinese activists and advocates of their cause worldwide had been hacked by third parties.

"We have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists," posted Drummond.

"As part of this investigation, but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of US, China and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties."

As a result the company is rethinking its position in country and whether to withdraw completely.

"These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China," said Drummond.

"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all."

He continued: "We recognise that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China."

The US Government is investigating the allegations and The Guardian has reported that US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is calling on Beijing to talk about the situation.

"We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions," she said.

"We look to the Chinese government for an explanation."

Reuters reported the first public response from the Chinese Government, which came from an unnamed spokesperson from its State Council Information Office.

They said: "It is still hard to say whether Google will quit China or not. Nobody knows."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.