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NYT James Fallows Dec 4 2010, 3:16 PM ET
The latest in the NYT’s presentation of of Wikileaks documents, focusing on Chinese government efforts to control the internet in general and Google in particular, has just gone up on the NYT site. It is absolutely riveting for anyone interested in any of the component elements (Google, China, The Internet, etc; previous Google-China postings here.)
Read the NYT report for yourself here, with links to specific cables. Later this afternoon, on NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered, I will be discussing this with Audie Cornish. [Segment is here.] But at first glance, here are the details that jump out at me.
- The role of Li Changchun. He is the propaganda chief for all of China — that’s him at right – a 66-year old electrical engineer with very limited experience outside the country or its governing hierarchy. He reportedly was incensed to discover “critical” remarks when he did a Google search of his own name (a mistake even if you’re not a senior Chinese Communist official) and was inspired to kick off a campaign to make Google’s life difficult inside China.
- The bogusness of the ‘Netizen’ argument. When the Google-China showdown began, a number of Chinese web commentators said that Google was simply looking for a face-saving way to get out of a market where it was coming in second to Baidu. That was ridiculous- sounding at the time (as I argued here), and this evidence suggests that it was always flatly wrong. The Chinese government was concerned about Google because it seemed potentially so strong (and attractive), not because it was in any way weak.
- The ‘disorganized hacker’ vs ‘planned attack’ debate. When it comes to online attacks, the endless debate is: are we mainly talking about “normal” criminals, vandals, con men, and young computer experts who are trying to see what they can find? Or are we talking about instruments of state policy? I wrote an article about this early this year. Both kinds of attacks, and others, will continue — but these cables show that U.S. government officials believed that there was a large amount of planned, coordinated Chinese-government efforts against foreign individuals, institutions, and companies.
- The Google Maps controversy. This cable, in particular, discusses the Chinese government’s requests to the U.S. government, to make Google fuzz up or alter some of its Google Earth imagery, to avoid revealing “sensitive” locations. This is a longer discussion for another time (previous mention here or here), but the perceived subversive power of maps and satellite images in many societies is profound. For instance, as I’ve mentioned before, Google Earth shows a gigantic airport on the west side of Beijing (right) that I have never seen on a Beijing city map. I’ve meant for months to do a post about the odd aspect of online satellite imagery of China: if you go to a site with both a “map” and a “satellite” view and click back and forth, you’ll see that they don’t exactly match. There’s an offset built into almost all of them. Main point: the cables show that the Chinese officials are well aware of what these images can mean.
- The Google/USG common front. Early this year it was notable, and somewhat strange, that Google seemed in effect to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US government in complaining about Chinese internet controls. This appearance was strongest when Hillary Clinton gave her (very forceful) speech about internet openness on the heels of the Google case. The reason it seemed strange was that Google would seem to have a lot to lose, especially in the eyes of the Chinese public, by allying too closely with a foreign government. The cables suggest that the Chinese government in effect encouraged an alliance, by treating Google as a de facto arm of foreign/US influence.
- Who comes out looking better. The original statements by Google (starting with David Drummond’s announcement) stand up well in the light of this new information. The cables themselves are impressive in their lucidity — well, except for the deleted parts. As many people have mentioned, a wholly unanticipated consequence of the Wikileaks episode may be raising the esteem of the U.S. diplomatic corps that is providing these observations from around the world. Granted, this is a one-sided perspective, recording events from the U.S. observers’ point of view; still, I think it will lessen rather than enhance outside opinion of the Chinese government’s motivations and breadth of view. I suspect that a comparable trove of Treasury Department cables, reporting dealings with their very sophisticated Chinese counterparts, would give a very different impression.
James Fallows James Fallows is a National Correspondent for The Atlantic. A 25-year veteran of the magazine and former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, he is also an instrument-rated pilot and a onetime program designer at Microsoft.
Cables Discuss Vast Hacking by a China That Fears the Web
MARCH 10, 2010 | TAIYUAN, CHINA | Customers use computers at an Internet cafe. Cables document the Politburo’s near obsession with Chinese Internet users accessing politically delicate information.
NYT JAMES GLANZ and JOHN MARKOFF December 4, 2010
As China ratcheted up the pressure on Google to censor its Internet searches last year, the American Embassy sent a secret cable to Washington detailing one reason top Chinese leaders had become so obsessed with the Internet search company: they were Googling themselves.
Articles in this series will examine American diplomatic cables as a window on relations with the rest of the world in an age of war and terrorism.
The May 18, 2009, cable, titled “Google China Paying Price for Resisting Censorship,” quoted a well-placed source as saying that Li Changchun, a member of China’s top ruling body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and the country’s senior propaganda official, was taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google’s main international Web site. When Mr. Li typed his name into the search engine at google.com, he found “results critical of him.”
That cable from American diplomats was one of many made public by WikiLeaks that portray China’s leadership as nearly obsessed with the threat posed by the Internet to their grip on power — and, the reverse, by the opportunities it offered them, through hacking, to obtain secrets stored in computers of its rivals, especially the United States.
Extensive hacking operations suspected of originating in China, including one leveled at Google, are a central theme in the cables. The operations began earlier and were aimed at a wider array of American government and military data than generally known, including on the computers of United States diplomats involved in climate change talks with China.
One cable, dated early this year, quoted a Chinese person with family connections to the elite as saying that Mr. Li himself directed an attack on Google’s servers in the United States, though that claim has been called into question. In an interview with The New York Times, the person cited in the cable said that Mr. Li personally oversaw a campaign against Google’s operations in China but the person did not know who directed the hacking attack.
The cables catalog the heavy pressure that was placed on Google to comply with local censorship laws, as well as Google’s willingness to comply — up to a point. That coercion began building years before the company finally decided to pull its search engine out of China last spring in the wake of the successful hacking attack on its home servers, which yielded Chinese dissidents’ e-mail accounts as well as Google’s proprietary source code.
The demands on Google went well beyond removing material on subjects like the Dalai Lama or the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese officials also put pressure on the United States government to censor the Google Earth satellite imaging service by lowering the resolution of images of Chinese government facilities, warning that Washington could be held responsible if terrorists used that information to attack government or military facilities, the cables show. An American diplomat replied that Google was a private company and that he would report the request to Washington but that he had no sense about how the government would act.
Yet despite the hints of paranoia that appear in some cables, there are also clear signs that Chinese leaders do not consider the Internet an unstoppable force for openness and democracy, as some Americans believe.
In fact, this spring, around the time of the Google pullout, China’s State Council Information Office delivered a triumphant report to the leadership on its work to regulate traffic online, according to a crucial Chinese contact cited by the State Department in a cable in early 2010, when contacted directly by The Times.
The message delivered by the office, the person said, was that “in the past, a lot of officials worried that the Web could not be controlled.”
“But through the Google incident and other increased controls and surveillance, like real-name registration, they reached a conclusion: the Web is fundamentally controllable,” the person said.
That confidence may also reflect what the cables show are repeated and often successful hacking attacks from China on the United States government, private enterprises and Western allies that began by 2002, several years before such intrusions were widely reported in the United States.
At least one previously unreported attack in 2008, code-named Byzantine Candor by American investigators, yielded more than 50 megabytes of e-mails and a complete list of user names and passwords from an American government agency, a Nov. 3, 2008, cable revealed for the first time.
Precisely how these hacking attacks are coordinated is not clear. Many appear to rely on Chinese freelancers and an irregular army of “patriotic hackers” who operate with the support of civilian or military authorities, but not directly under their day-to-day control, the cables and interviews suggest.
But the cables also appear to contain some suppositions by Chinese and Americans passed along by diplomats. For example, the cable dated earlier this year referring to the hacking attack on Google said: “A well-placed contact claims that the Chinese government coordinated the recent intrusions of Google systems. According to our contact, the closely held operations were directed at the Politburo Standing Committee level.”
The cable goes on to quote this person as saying that the hacking of Google “had been coordinated out of the State Council Information Office with the oversight” of Mr. Li and another Politburo member, Zhou Yongkang.” Mr. Zhou is China’s top security official.
Articles in this series will examine American diplomatic cables as a window on relations with the rest of the world in an age of war and terrorism.
But the person cited in the cable gave a divergent account. He detailed a campaign to press Google coordinated by the Propaganda Department’s director, Liu Yunshan. Mr. Li and Mr. Zhou issued approvals in several instances, he said, but he had no direct knowledge linking them to the hacking attack aimed at securing commercial secrets or dissidents’ e-mail accounts — considered the purview of security officials.
Still, the cables provide a patchwork of detail about cyberattacks that American officials believe originated in China with either the assistance or knowledge of the Chinese military.
For example, in 2008 Chinese intruders based in Shanghai and linked to the People’s Liberation Army used a computer document labeled “salary increase — survey and forecast” as bait as part of the sophisticated intrusion scheme that yielded more than 50 megabytes of e-mails and a complete list of user names and passwords from a United States government agency that was not identified.
The cables indicate that the American government has been fighting a pitched battle with intruders who have been clearly identified as using Chinese-language keyboards and physically located in China. In most cases the intruders took great pains to conceal their identities, but occasionally they let their guard down. In one case described in the documents, investigators tracked one of the intruders who was surfing the Web in Taiwan “for personal use.”
In June 2009 during climate change talks between the United States and China, the secretary of state’s office sent a secret cable warning about e-mail “spear phishing” attacks directed at five State Department employees in the Division of Ocean Affairs of the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change.
The messages, which purport to come from a National Journal columnist, had the subject line “China and Climate Change.” The e-mail contained a PDF file that was intended to install a malicious software program known as Poison Ivy, which was meant to give an intruder complete control of the victim’s computer. That attack failed.
The cables also reveal that a surveillance system dubbed Ghostnet that stole information from the computers used by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and South Asian governments and was uncovered in 2009 was linked to a second broad series of break-ins into American government computers code-named Byzantine Hades. Government investigators were able to make a “tenuous connection” between those break-ins and the People’s Liberation Army.
The documents also reveal that in 2008 German intelligence briefed American officials on similar attacks beginning in 2006 against the German government, including military, economic, science and technology, commercial, diplomatic, and research and development targets. The Germans described the attacks as preceding events like the German government’s meetings with the Chinese government.
Even as such attacks were occurring, Google made a corporate decision in 2006, controversial even within the company, to establish a domestic Chinese version of its search engine, called google.cn. In doing so, it agreed to comply with China’s censorship laws.
But despite that concession, Chinese officials were never comfortable with Google, the cables and interviews show.
The Chinese claimed that Google Earth, the company’s satellite mapping software, offered detailed “images of China’s military, nuclear, space, energy and other sensitive government agency installations” that would be an asset to terrorists. A cable sent on Nov. 7, 2006, reported that Liu Jieyi, an assistant minister of foreign affairs, warned the American Embassy in Beijing that there would be “grave consequences” if terrorists exploited the imagery.
A year later, another cable pointed out that Google searches for politically delicate terms would sometimes be automatically redirected to Baidu, the Chinese company that was Google’s main competitor in China. Baidu is known for scrubbing its own search engine of results that might be unwelcome to government censors.
Google conducted numerous negotiations with officials in the State Council Information Office and other departments involved in censorship, propaganda and media licensing, the cables show. The May 18, 2009, cable that revealed pressure on the company by Mr. Li, the propaganda chief, said Google had taken some measures “to try and placate the government.” The cable also noted that Google had asked the American government to intervene with China on its behalf.
But Chinese officials became alarmed that Google still did less than its Chinese rivals to remove material Chinese officials considered offensive. Such material included information about Chinese dissidents and human rights issues, but also about central and provincial Chinese leaders and their children — considered an especially taboo topic, interviews with people quoted in the cables reveal.
Mr. Li, after apparently searching for information online on himself and his children, was reported to have stepped up pressure on Google. He also took steps to punish Google commercially, according to the May 18 cable.
The propaganda chief ordered three big state-owned Chinese telecommunications companies to stop doing business with Google. Mr. Li also demanded that Google executives remove any link between its sanitized Chinese Web site and its main international one, which he deemed “an illegal site,” the cable said.
Google ultimately stopped complying with repeated censorship requests. It stopped offering a censored version of its search engine in China earlier this year, citing both the hacking attacks and its unwillingness to continue obeying censorship orders.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Li Changchun (simplified Chinese: 李长春; traditional Chinese: 李長春; pinyin: Lǐ Chángchūn; born February 1944 in Dalian, Liaoning) is the Propaganda chief of the Communist Party of China. He is the 5th ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, China’s de facto top power organ, and has been a member since 2002. Previously he had served in Liaoning and Henan.
Li Changchun was born on February 1944 in Dalian, Liaoning. He joined the Communist Party of China in 1965 and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the Harbin Institute of Technology in 1966. In 1983, at age 39, he became the youngest mayor and Party secretary of a major city, of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning. In 1987, he became governor of the province, a post he kept until 1990. As governor, mainland China‘s first expressway was built in the province, linking the cities of Shenyang and Dalian. He contributes heavily to China’s censorship campaign of propaganda and frequently orders media to downplay or not report on certain events. Li served briefly as the Party chief in the agricultural province of Henan in the 1990s. Jiang Zemin sent him to serve as Guangdong Party Secretary, where he cracked down on corruption enough such that Jiang could launch his Three Represents there in 2000. Li, again the youngest ever member, was promoted to the Politburo of the Communist Party of China in 1998, and made a member of its Standing Committee after General Secretary Jiang Zemin‘s retirement in 2002. He currently holds no other official position.
Controversy from leaked diplomatic cables by Wikileaks
In December 2010, diplomatic cables in the United States diplomatic cables leak quoted a contact as saying Li Changchun and fellow Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang oversaw Operation Aurora against Google, but this is disputed. However, according to The New York Times, the person who was cited in the cable saying Mr. Li personally oversaw a campaign against Google’s Chinese operations denied knowing who directed the hacking attack. According to another leaked cable, Mr. Li was taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google’s main international Web site. When Mr. Li typed his name into the search engine at google.com, he found “results critical of him.”
- ^ “#19: Li Changzhun”. The World’s Most Powerful People. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/20/power-09_Li-Changchun_YOVG.html.
- ^ “Li Changchun”. Xinhua. 2007-10-22. http://www.gov.cn/english/2007-10/22/content_783359.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
- ^ a b “Li Changchun”. China’s Leaders (BBC News). 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/china_politics/leadership/html/9.stm. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
- ^ Escobar, Pepe (2005-01-25). “Guangdong, the unstoppable ‘world’s factory’”. Sinoroving (Asia Times). http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/GA25Ad05.html. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
- ^ Tien, Hung-mao; Zhu, Yunghan (2000). China under Jiang Zemin. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 25. ISBN 9781555879273. http://books.google.com/books?id=khyLT_sU7fcC&pg=PA25.
- ^ “Chinese Officials Behind Google Hacking”. Fox News. 2010-12-04.
- http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/12/too-good-to-check-google-and-the-chinese-propaganda-boss/67509/. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
- ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/world/asia/05wikileaks-china.html?_r=1
- Li Changchun biography @ China Vitae, the web’s largest online database of China VIPs
- biography of Li Changchun People Daily
- Cables Discuss Vast Hacking by a China That Fears the Web The New York Times
Chinese Intelligence Operations in the United States
NYT James Fallows
When will China emerge as a military threat to the U.S.? In most respects the answer is: not anytime soon—China doesn’t even contemplate a time it might challenge America directly. But one significant threat already exists: cyberwar. Attacks—not just from China but from Russia and elsewhere—on America’s electronic networks cost millions of dollars and could in the extreme cause the collapse of financial life, the halt of most manufacturing systems, and the evaporation of all the data and knowledge stored on the Internet.
Early in my time in China, I learned a useful lesson for daily life. In the summer of 2006, I saw a contingent of light-green-shirted People’s Liberation Army soldiers marching in formation down a sidewalk on Fuxing Lu in Shanghai, near the U.S. and Iranian consulates. They looked so crisp under the leafy plane trees of the city’s old colonial district that I pulled out a camera to take a picture of them—and, after pushing the button, had to spend the next 60 seconds running at full tilt away from the group’s leader, who pursued me yelling in English “Stop! No photo! Must stop!” Fortunately he gave up after scaring me off.
The practical lesson was to not point a camera toward uniformed groups of soldiers or police. The broader hint I took was to be more careful when asking about or discussing military matters than when asking about most other aspects of modern China’s development. I did keep asking people in China—carefully—about the potential military and strategic implications of their country’s growing strength. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union and consequent disappearance of the U.S. military’s one superpower rival, Western defense strategists have speculated about China’s emergence as the next great military threat. (In 2005, this magazine published Robert Kaplan’s cover story “How We Would Fight China,” about such a possibility. Many of the international-affairs experts I interviewed in China were familiar with that story. I often had to explain that “would” did not mean “will” in the article’s headline.)
The cynical view of warnings about a mounting Chinese threat is that they are largely Pentagon budget-building ploys: if the U.S. military is “only” going to fight insurgents and terrorists in the future, it doesn’t really need the next generation of expensive fighter planes or attack submarines. Powerful evidence for this view—apart from familiarity with Pentagon budget debates over the years—is that many of the neoconservative thinkers who since 9/11 have concentrated on threats from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran were before that time writing worriedly about China. The most powerful counterargument is that China’s rise is so consequential and unprecedented in scale that it would be naive not to expect military ramifications. My instincts lie with the skeptical camp: as I’ve often written through the past three years, China has many more problems than most Americans can imagine, and its power is much less impressive up close. But on my return to America, I asked a variety of military, governmental, business, and academic officials about how the situation looks from their perspective. In most ways, their judgment was reassuringly soothing; unfortunately, it left me with a new problem to worry about.
Without meaning to sound flip, I think the strictly military aspects of U.S.-China relations appear to be something Americans can rest easy about for a long time to come. Hypercautious warnings to the contrary keep cropping up, especially in the annual reports on China’s strategic power produced since 2000 by the Pentagon each spring and by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission each fall. Yet when examined in detail, even these show the limits of the Chinese threat. To summarize:
• In overall spending, the United States puts between five and 10 times as much money into the military per year as China does, depending on different estimates of China’s budget. Spending does not equal effectiveness, but it suggests the difference in scale.
• In sophistication of equipment, Chinese forces are only now beginning to be brought up to speed. For instance, just one-quarter of its naval surface fleet is considered “modern” in electronics, engines, and weaponry.
• In certain categories of weaponry, the Chinese don’t even compete. For instance, the U.S. Navy has 11 nuclear-powered aircraft-carrier battle groups. The Chinese navy is only now moving toward construction of its very first carrier.
• In the unglamorous but crucial components of military effectiveness—logistics, training, readiness, evolving doctrine—the difference between Chinese and American standards is not a gap but a chasm. After a natural disaster anywhere in the world, the American military’s vast airlift and sealift capacity often brings rescue supplies. The Chinese military took days to reach survivors after the devastating Sichuan earthquake in May of 2008, because it has so few helicopters and emergency vehicles.
• For better and worse, in modern times, American forces are continually in combat somewhere in the world. This has its drawbacks, but it means that U.S. leaders, tactics, and doctrine are constantly refined by the realities of warfare. In contrast, vanishingly few members of the People’s Liberation Army have any combat experience whatsoever. The PLA’s last major engagement was during its border war with Vietnam in February and March of 1979, when somewhere between 7,000 of its soldiers (Chinese estimate) and 25,000 (foreign estimates) were killed within four weeks.
Beyond all this is a difference of military culture rarely included in American discussions of the Chinese threat—and surprising to those unfamiliar with the way China’s Communist government chose to fund its army. The post-Vietnam American military has been fanatically devoted to creating a “warrior” culture of military professionalism. The great struggle of the modern PLA has been containing the crony-capitalist culture that comes from its unashamed history of involvement in business. Especially under Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese military owned and operated factories, hotels and office buildings, shipping and trucking companies, and other businesses both legitimate and shady. In the late 1990s President Jiang Zemin led a major effort to peel the PLA’s military functions away from its business dealings, but by all accounts, corruption remains a major challenge in the Chinese military, rather than the episodic problem it is for most Western forces. One example: at a small airport in the center of the country, an airport manager told me about his regular schedule of hong bao deliveries—“red envelopes,” or discreet cash payoffs—to local air-force officers, to ensure airline passage through the sector of airspace they controlled. (Most U.S. airspace is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration; nearly all of China’s, by the military.) A larger example is the widespread assumption that military officials control the vast Chinese traffic in pirated movie DVDs.
The Chinese military’s main and unconcealed ambition is to someday be strong enough to take Taiwan by force if it had to. But the details of the balance of power between mainland and Taiwanese forces, across the Straits of Taiwan, have been minutely scrutinized by all parties for decades, and shifts will not happen by surprise. The annual reports from the Pentagon and the Security Review Commission lay out other possible scenarios for conflict, but in my experience it is rare to hear U.S. military or diplomatic officials talk about war with China as a plausible threat. “My view is that the political leadership is principally focused on creating new jobs inside the country,” I was told by retired Admiral Mike McConnell, a former head of the National Security Agency and the director of national intelligence under George W. Bush. Another former U.S. official put it this way: “We tend to think of everything about China as being multiplied by 1.3 billion. The Chinese leadership has to think of everything as being divided by 1.3 billion”—jobs, houses, land. Russell Leigh Moses, who has lived in China for years and lectures at programs to train Chinese officials, notes that the Chinese military, like its counterparts everywhere, is “determined not to be neglected.” But “so many problems occupy the military itself—including learning how to play the political game—that there is no consensus to take on the U.S.”
Yes, circumstances could change, and someday there could be a consensus to “take on the U.S.” But the more you hear about the details, the harder it is to worry seriously about that now. So why should we worry? After conducting this round of interviews, I now lose sleep over something I’d generally ignored: the possibility of a “cyberwar” that could involve attacks from China—but, alarmingly, could also be launched by any number of other states and organizations.
The cyber threat is the idea that organizations or individuals may be spying on, tampering with, or preparing to inflict damage on America’s electronic networks. Google’s recent announcement of widespread spying “originating from China” brought attention to a problem many experts say is sure to grow. China has hundreds of millions of Internet users, mostly young. In any culture, this would mean a large hacker population; in China, where tight control and near chaos often coexist, it means an Internet with plenty of potential outlaws and with carefully directed government efforts, too. In a report for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission late last year, Northrop Grumman prepared a time line of electronic intrusions and disruptions coming from sites inside China since 1999. In most cases it was impossible to tell whether the activity was amateur or government-planned, the report said. But whatever their source, the disruptions were a problem. And in some instances, the “depth of resources” and the “extremely focused targeting of defense engineering data, US military operational information, and China-related policy information” suggested an effort that would be “difficult at best without some type of state-sponsorship.”
A Selection From the Cache of Diplomatic Dispatches NYT ALAN McLEAN, SCOTT SHANE and ARCHIE TSE
Below are a selection of the documents from a cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks intends to make public starting on Nov. 28. A small number of names and passages in some of the cables have been removed by The New York Times to protect diplomats’ confidential sources, to keep from compromising American intelligence efforts or to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens.
Candid and Frank Assessments
- Sept. 29, 2009 Profile of the Libyan Leader
- Aug. 31, 2006 A Wild Wedding in Dagestan, Russia
- July 13, 2007 Ambassador Reports on Zimbabwe’s Leader
- Feb. 6, 2007 U.S. Warns Germany on Bungled Rendition
- Oct. 3, 2009 2009 Meeting with Ahmed Wali Karzai
- Feb. 25, 2010 2010 Meeting with Ahmed Wali Karzai
- July 24, 2009 Analyzing a Coup in Honduras
- Aug. 13, 1979 Message From a Soon-to-Be Hostage in Iran
- Dec. 13, 1989 From Panama Before the U.S. Invasion
- Jan. 17, 1990 On the Eve of Nelson Mandela’s Release
Iran’s Nuclear Ambition
- Nov. 4, 2009 Bahrain’s King Says Iran Must Be Stopped
- April 8, 2009 Treasury Official on Iran Sanctions
- April 29, 2006 Abu Dhabi’s Prince on Iranian Threat
- June 2, 2009 Israeli Warning on Iran
- April 20, 2008 Saudis Warn of Iranian Influence and Threat
- Jan. 27, 2010 Saudis Assure China on Oil Supply
- May 16, 2005 An Arab Defense Chief on Strikes Against Iran
Diplomats or Spies?
- July 31, 2009 Diplomats Helping American Spies
- Jan. 14, 2010 High-Level North Korean Defections
- Aug. 6, 2009 U.S.-South Korea Relations
- June 26, 2009 Chinese Scholar on North Korean Weapons
- Oct. 26, 2009 China-United States Talks on North Korea
- Feb. 22, 2010 American Ambassador on North Korea’s Future
- June 17, 2009 Chinese Complaints About North Korea
- Feb. 18, 2010 North Korea’s Future
- Feb. 5, 2009 Kuwaiti Has Doubts on Return of Detainees
- July 9, 2008 Gauging Canada’s Reaction to Release of Interrogation Video
- Sept. 15, 2009 Concerns Over Releasing Yemeni Detainees
- Aug. 6, 2009 Guantánamo Afghans Not Prosecuted at Home
- March 31, 2009 Saudi Rehabilitation Program for Militants
- Jan. 15, 2010 Former Detainee Urges Europe to Accept Other Released Detainees
- Feb. 6, 2009 Biden Doubts Pakistan’s Support for U.S. Goals
- April 3, 2009 Pakistan’s Leader Worries About Threat From Own Army
- May 27, 2009 Ambassador’s Concerns About Nuclear Material
- Sept. 10, 2009 Human Rights Abuses by Pakistani Army
- Sept. 23, 2009 Will Extra Aid Persuade Pakistan to Cut Ties to Extremists?
- Oct. 9, 2009 Closer Military Ties With Pakistan
- April 10, 2008 U.S. Opposed A.Q. Khan’s Release
- Feb. 12, 2009 Blackwater Launches an Anti-Pirate Ship
- Oct. 21, 2009 American Ambassador on Sarkozy
- Dec. 4, 2009 An Intimidating Boss
- Aug. 4, 2005 Sarkozy Portrayed as “Pro-American”
- Jan. 26, 2009 Speculation on Putin-Berlusconi Ties
- Feb. 5, 2010 Close Putin-Berlusconi Relationship
- Nov. 6, 2009 Russia Upset Over Polish Remarks
- Nov. 19, 2009 Russian Corruption
- Feb. 12, 2010 A Moscow Mayor and Corruption
- Nov. 9, 2009 Scant Russia-U.S. Military Cooperation
- Nov. 3, 2009 Intel Lobbies the Kremlin
- March 4, 2009 Putin Disengaged?
- Aug. 8, 2008 Adopting Georgia’s Views
- Aug. 9, 2008 Siding With Georgia’s Leader
- Sept. 18, 2009 Skepticism About Azerbaijan
- Nov. 18, 2004 A Briefing on Canada for Bush
- Jan. 25, 2008 Anti-American Canadian TV
- July 9, 2008 Canadian Spy Chief Talks
- Sept. 22, 2008 The U.S. and the Canadian Election
- Jan. 22, 2009 Obama Briefed for Canada Visit
- Oct. 19, 2009 Cash Flows From Afghanistan
- Feb. 7, 2010 An Effective, but Allegedly Corrupt, Police Chief
- Jan. 7, 2010 An Injustice in Kabul
- Nov. 18, 2009 Afghan Insider Explains Corruption
- Oct. 18, 2009 Investigating an Afghan Money Exchange Network
- Aug. 6, 2009 Karzai Intervenes in Drug Cases
- July 16, 2009 Ambassador Eikenberry Meets President Karzai
- June 18, 2008 Karzai: Erratic Politician or Rational Leader?
- Feb. 17, 2010 Americans Arrested in Yemen for Militant Ties
- Jan. 4, 2010 Yemeni President on U.S. Missile Strikes
- Sept. 15, 2009 Yemeni President Gives U.S. Free Reign
- Aug. 4, 2009 Hunting for Dangerous Weapons in Yemen
- March 23, 2009 Yemeni President on Guantánamo Prisoners
- Nov. 25, 2009 A Standoff Over Uranium in Libya
- Dec. 21, 2009 Libyan Uranium Finally Leaves for Russia
- Dec. 7, 2009 Department of Energy Team Inspects Uranium
- Nov. 30, 2009 Qaddafi’s Son Complains about U.S.
- Chinese Government Singles Out Google
- Nov. 8, 2007 Chinese Press Controls Discussed
- Nov. 7, 2006 Chinese Warning about Google Earth
- Nov. 3, 2008 Cyber-Attacks and Other Security Threats
- June 29, 2009 China’s Ties to the World of Computer Hackers
Date 2006-11-07 06:48:00
Source Embassy Beijing
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 023571
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2021
TAGS: PREL, PINR, TSPA, CH
SUBJECT: PRC CLAIMS HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGERY ON GOOGLE EARTH
COULD AID TERRORIST ATTACKS ON CHINA
Classified By: Classified by Deputy Chief of Mission David S. Sedney.
Reasons 1.4 (b/d).
1. (C) China wants the United States Government to take
action to get Google to reduce the resolution of the Google
Earth images of China’s military, nuclear, space, energy and
other sensitive government agency installations in order to
deprive terrorists of potentially dangerous information, ––––
–––– –––– –––– –––– –––– –––– –––– –––– told
the DCM on –––– ––––. –––– –––– said the Beijing request was
based on possible “grave consequences” if terrorists exploit
the information to harm China. Google Earth is a private
company, the DCM reminded –––– ––––. –––– –––– was noncommittal on
whether China would directly contact Google or the European
imagery providers and the other sources of high resolution
imagery on the Internet. Other countries have shared similar
concerns with China, –––– –––– said, but he refused to divulge
country names. End Summary.
Google Earth High Resolution Images a Threat to China
2. (C) Google Earth is providing high resolution images of
sensitive Chinese facilities over the Internet, thereby
endangering PRC national security, –––– –––– –––– ––––
–––– –––– –––– –––– –––– –––– –––– told
the DCM during a –––– –––– meeting. These facilities
include military installations, nuclear test sites, satellite
launch sites, oil production facilities, power generating
plants and important government departments. The resolution
is one meter for most of China, and is as fine as 0.6 meters
in Beijing and Shanghai, allowing anyone with Internet access
to view these facilities in great detail. Moreover, Google
Earth allows users to post information about specific
locations, –––– –––– continued, which means information about
important Chinese agencies and sensitive installations is
effectively being published on the Internet.
“Grave Consequences” if Terrorists Use Imagery
3. (C) –––– –––– said China is extremely concerned that
terrorist organizations could access the high resolution
imagery and posted information and present a grave threat to
PRC national security. If terrorists used the imagery from
Google Earth to cause damage to China, there would be “grave
consequences,” warned –––– ––––. In the spirit of our sound
bilateral cooperative relationship, particularly on
counterterrorism issues, –––– asked that the United States
place “great importance” on China’s concerns, understand the
sensitivity of the matter and take action so that Google will
reduce the resolution of the images of China’s sensitive
DCM: Google a Private Company, and Not Imagery Source
3. (C) The DCM told –––– –––– that he would report the request
to Washington, but noted that Google is a private company.
The DCM said he had no information to offer on what, if any,
role or response the United States Government might have to
the Chinese presentation. The DCM noted that the Chinese
points only asked for a reduction in the resolution and asked
if the Chinese sought any specific level. The DCM also asked
whether –––– –––– had contacted Google directly and, since
Google purchases the imagery as any individual or entity can,
whether China had contacted the satellite imagery providers.
–––– ––––: Other, Unspecified Countries Have Similar Concerns
4. (C) –––– –––– responded that China is approaching the United
States Government because the issue is directly relevant to
counterterrorism and that while Google is a private company
it operates in the United States “political and legal
environment.” China is requesting the United States take
action to prevent the information from being misused to cause
damage to China, –––– –––– reiterated. He offered that China
had been in discussions with other countries with similar
concerns about Google Earth. However, –––– –––– refused to
provide the names of the other countries, noting he was
unable to share the information due to prior agreements with
BEIJING 00023571 002 OF 002
Europe the Source of Imagery, But Google Earth is the Key
5. (C) China will talk to Google about the “technical
details,” –––– –––– continued, adding that it is not for the MFA
to determine the appropriate resolution level. China knows
the source data comes from European companies, satellite
operators and the European space agency but –––– –––– said China
sees Google as the problem because it makes the information
easily accessible. When pressed, –––– –––– admitted that
Beijing had not yet contacted the European providers or the
governments associated with the European space program. ––––
–––– said that while China will look at the other Internet
sources of the high resolution imagery, Google,s well known
imagery is of greatest concern.
OO RUEHAG RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHROV RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #3571/01 3110648
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 070648Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1848
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0400
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 6471
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 0385
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 2017
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
A Chinese official tells the American Embassy that China wants the United States to persuade Google Earth to reduce the resolution of images of Chinese military, nuclear, space, energy and other government facilities, saying the images could help terrorists plan attacks.
About the redactions
——— Redacted text
A small number of names and passages in some of the cables have been removed by The New York Times to protect diplomats’ confidential sources, to keep from compromising American intelligence efforts or to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens.
|Sunday, December 5, 2010|
James Fallows – James Fallows is a National Correspondent for The Atlantic. A 25-year veteran of the magazine and former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, he is also an instrument-rated pilot and a onetime program designer at Microsoft.
James Fallows is based in Washington as a National Correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for the Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot.
Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and has won a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His two most recent books, Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards from Tomorrow Square (2009) are based his writings for The Atlantic; he is at work on another book about China He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.
Three Google / China Follow-Ups
NYT Mar 24 2010,
1) China cannot be pleased about trend it confronts with “Google Earth” even archive stuff. See for example this [missile-defense emplacements for the Beijing Olympics]:
2) Does this spell the end of Team Selene, the only China-based team now participating in Google Lunar X Prize? Good chance this might happen now .
From a Chinese reader in Shanghai:
Saw on twitter that people were sending condolence flowers to Google’s office in Beijing yesterday…. Besides the flowers, there were also cups there. Cup is now a euphemism for “tragedy”, because the two words, “Bei Ju”, sounds the same in Chinese.http://img.ly/HVy
But they were cleared away quickly by the police. Pic later yesterday night: http://img.ly/I1l
From a Western reader who has been living in China:
Google positions its departure as a principaled stand. Nationalist idiots like [names deleted - JF] suggest that Google is pulling out because it lost the China market and is using “human rights” as face-saving cover while it slinks away, tail tucked between its legs. Equally nationalist US media like the NYT just cannot stop their gasping, breathless praise of the principled sacrifice that Our Lord and Savior Google is making.
I think they are both correct – the move is both pragmatic AND principled, but spinning the story as an either/or obscures a single major fact that eclipses all other considerations on the table when Google decided to leave China, namely: Google could never possibly be allowed to win in China, and they knew it.
Internet search and analytics companies today have more access to high quality, real-time information about people, places and events, and more ability to filter, aggregate, and analyze it than any government agency, anywhere ever. Maybe the NSA can encrypt it better and process it faster but it lacks ability to collect the high value data – the stuff that satellites can’t see. The things people think but don’t say. The things people do but don’t say. All documented in excruciating detail, each event tagged with location, precise time. Every word you type, every click you make (how many sites do you visit have google ads, or analytics?), Google is watching you – and learning. It’s their business to. This fact has yet to sink in on the general public in the US, but it has not gone un-noticed by the Chinese government.
The Chinese government wants unfettered access to all of that information. Google, defending its long-term brand equity, cannot give its data to the Chinese government. Baidu, on the other hand, would and does…
Now, consider the quality of the data that Baidu can furnish the Chinese government with if it owns 30% of Chinese search traffic, as opposed to 70%. 40% of your literate population is a pretty big blind spot. This is a primary reason that Google believes it can never “win” the Chinese market as it has “won” the markets of so many other countries. As Google gains market share, the Chinese government loses an important barometer of real-time data about what Chinese citizens are thinking about right now. This barometer is all the more valuable in China, where the authoritarian, single-party government has precious few mechanisms like elections or an independent judiciary to address social greviences, much less gauge them.
It is for this reason that the PRC has a vested interest in granting a monopoly in search to one and only one company, over any competitor foreign or domestic. It’s all about making sure the goverment has the highest quality data about everything that Chinese citizens are doing and thinking. Having a losing Google around made the market look nice and competitive, made indigenous Chinese companies look talented and strong, and as a bonus, occasionally provided a scapegoat for nationalists to pummel. Google tried to engage, but eventually understood what its role was from the perspective of the PRC government. And their bonus was to give the PRC government little black eye on the way out.
So Google has, for years, been the victim of anti-competitive practices sponsored by the Chinese government, certainly with the purpose of restricting sensitive information like photos of 6-4 [Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989], but more importantly giving Google’s market share to a cooperative local monopoly. Most of these anti-competitive practices have been well documented, but some have been largely ignored. Outright domain-level blocking of Google services like youtube, gmail, and docs, selective blocking based on keyword search (used to get your internet connection hosed for 5 minutes for searching for “bad” words like, “freedom” – no joke). But there were more subtle indications that very sophisticated tactics were employed – for years I ran traffic through two browsers side by side. One browser used an encrypted tunnel, one browser used the Chinese internet directly. Google searches through the encrypted browser were snappy. Google searches through the China direct browsers dragged and stalled. The traffic was being filtered and / or bottlenecked – when the automated censors could see it. This caused a perception of poor service within China that would give Baidu an edge gradually over time, with a low-level of detectability by anyone.
This is just another example of the PRC’s brilliant take on authoritarian government: you don’t need total control, you just need effective control.
I sell this hard like a conspiracy theory, but I realize that it’s probably only one of many factors that led to the pullout. I just haven’t seen it get much play.
I agree with the final point: probably not the whole story, but probably too one of the factors at play.
Artificial Intelligence Fail: Google Maps Visa/Amazon
Mar 12 2010, 2:45 AM ET
“Big data” can do so much that it’s natural to think it can do anything. Display a sentence translated into Chinese — and written in Chinese characters — after I speak a sentence in English into a mobile phone? No problem! I did that just this afternoon, with a Nexus One phone using the Google Translate app, as a stunt for a Chinese friend. (“Big data” underpinnings for this achievement: a huge enough corpus of spoken English phonemes to have an idea of which ones most likely matched the sound waves from my voice; and then a huge enough corpus of matched English/Chinese written material to provide a plausible Chinese version of my thoughts.)
Real-time traffic report from — let’s say, Beijing, right this minute? No problem, either — confirming that northbound traffic on the East Third Ring Road, right outside our former home, is as jammed now as always. The emphatic black/red hashed line leading to the Guomao Bridge really brings it all back:
Perhaps more surprising, we can see, in real time, that downtown Chengdu is gridlocked too:
So what don’t the world’s computerized brains always know? Two illustrations in the past 24 hours, more or less trivial in themselves except for the surprise value that there should be any imperfection at all.
Case one: then generally-wonderful “Navigate” function in the Nexus One. During rush hour yesterday afternoon, it steered me toward an address in San Francisco via a route different from the one I usually take. I thought, maybe it knows best! So, confident in its judgment, I headed down a crowded Lombard street (right to left along the blue line below, on the route marked 101 / El Camino) until it began yelling at me “Turn LEFT on Fillmore Street.” That’s the left turn marked in blue below — and as real-world drivers know, it’s from a road whose every intersection says on a big sign “NO LEFT TURN 3PM – 7PM.”
Some fancy if illegal U-turning eventually got me where I was going, but not before I wondered: This phone knows just where I am, within a few feet. It knows the exact time, within a split second. And it can’t figure out when and where No Left Turn rules apply? It was like asking Steve Hawking to figure out a tip in a restaurant and noticing that he made a math mistake. He’s still smart, but you’ll be careful before asking him again.
Case two: Amazon/Visa. I have been spending a lamentably large amount of time at airports, including several early-morning dashes for the plane. Twice recently I’ve made it onto the plane without time to buy any newspapers. (Yes, out of loyalty, and because I find it a faster and better way to scan info, I like reading “real” newspapers.) In the always-enjoyable “waiting for the airplane to fill up” period, I fired up my Kindle and within seconds had bought that day’s versions of the NYT, the WSJ, and the Washington Post for 75 cents apiece.
Off the plane, and on to the car rental site. “Sorry, sir, your credit card has been declined. Do you have another?” Huh? Next 20 minutes on the phone with Visa, only to learn: a sequence of 75-cent charges had been flagged as probable fraud.
Come on, guys. I can’t be the first person to try to read newspapers on the Kindle. This isn’t even the first time I’ve had this exact problem with small Kindle purchases. I don’t know whether this seems more surprising on Amazon’s part or on Visa’s. Newspapers have enough problems without my worrying about getting my card revoked every time I try to buy one.
Back to Beijing #3 (even better news)
If you like maps — well, you’ll be in the same predicament in China as if you like really flavorful beer. The country has countless virtues, but a passionate modern map-making culture is not yet among them. Maps are often out of date; or out of scale; or deliberately hazy on state-security grounds. For instance, try to find a map of Beijing that includes the big military airport on the west side of town. Below is Google’s satellite view of the area just west of the Fourth Ring Road; below that, the very same part of the city in Google’s “map” view, which resembles what is shown on most available local maps. See if you notice any slight difference.
There is often also a quixotic relationship between the “real” location of a site and its depiction on paper. It’s all part of the grand adventure. And I still am waiting for the first time I see a Beijing taxi driver pull out a book of maps. (I’ve seen them used in Shanghai.)
But if you do like maps, you will very much enjoy the highly-detailed map cards in the “Beijing By Foot” package produced by Immersion Guides. They’re clear, they’re accurate, they are well explained and thought-out to lead you through a series of walking tours of the city. As cities go, this is not a great one for pedestrians, but this guide makes the best of it.
It was thanks to the guides that my wife and I had our “Paradise Beijing” outing a few weeks ago. Enjoy– and this is the “even better news” promised above. (Previously in the “Back to Beijing” series here and here.)
More on Hillary’s speech
Jan 21 2010, 11:47 PM ET
I have heard from many people who have a harsher view of Hillary Clinton’s “Internet freedom” speech that I expressed earlier. Part of the explanation, and I say this respectfully but with an edge, is that these people may not have heard as many Secretary of State speeches as I have. Usually such utterances have no apparent architecture or thought-content whatsoever. The standard transition is, “Turning now to Africa…” To have as much structure as Sec. Clinton’s speech did — to emphasize the obvious-but-rarely-made-by-politicians point that the Internet is simultaneously an opportunity and a peril; to try to enumerate the specific areas both of opportunity and of peril; to attempt, at least, the rhetorical trope of “Four Freedoms” of the Internet age; and again to attempt to make the connection between political freedom of expression and long term development of a society — this is not nothing. To anyone disgruntled by this speech, I say: show me a speech by a sitting Secretary of State in recent times that is substantially better or more logically coherent. (George Marshall’s speech unveiling what became the Marshall Plan does not count.) Graded in the only way that makes sense — against other presentations of its kind — it was an impressive piece of work.
Now… did it say exactly what the United States would do about practices it objects to, in China or elsewhere? Did it resolve other contradictions? No. And, of course not. Again, if you’re unhappy about this, you need to be exposed to more sitting-official speeches! Is it likely to help Google’s cause? No — as I pointed out! But rather than go much farther down that path, let me cite a message from a “Chinese-American-Canadian” reader who heard the speech in Shanghai and makes some sensible points:
“From my vantage point in Shanghai, I can say that the news of Google possibly leaving the country was briefly a topic of discussion several days ago but hasn’t been brought up since. My prediction is that, if Google leaves, Baidu will temporarily monopolize the market before facing competition from a domestic startup. Yes, Google will take a lot of top computer science talent along with it, but top talent will continue returning to the mainland from overseas to make up for the brain drain. And I don’t think Google’s departure will significantly impact the ability of Chinese people to circumvent censorship or government repression, as there are dozens of sites and forums discussing Party mishaps and injustices that are officially censored in the state news organs.
“Back to Hillary’s speech though, what exactly does she intend to accomplish? As the NYTimes article noted, human rights groups asked how this ethos of freedom and transparency would be enforced. For the time being, it seems practically unenforceable, so really her speech is a piece of elegant political posturing meant to please the Internet industry and human rights groups. At a time when Scott Brown’s election to the US Senate appears to be a sharp rebuke of health care form (which could kill Obama’s 2012 re-election), when unemployment continues to hover at 10% while Wall Street hands out record bonuses, when the Christmas Day underwear bombing sent anxiety into the hearts of Americans, Hillary’s speech is meant to reassert America’s moral leadership in the eyes of American citizens. She’s sending a reasurring message along the lines of, “look, even though our economy is logjammed and Capitol Hill seems frustratingly inefficient, America is still the beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. Sure, China’s economy grew at an 8.7% clip this year, but culturally they’re just as backwards as Egypt and Uzbekistan. Yes, dear unemployed, under-employed, and anxious Americans, bask in the glory of your constitutional freedoms!”
“In short, Hillary’s speech is a cleverly-framed pep talk to that side of the Pacific, but from this side, it sounds idealistic and … frankly, useless. Firstly, there’s no doubt here that the CIA spies on China (whether it’s cyber-spying or the conventional kind or both, I don’t know), so where’s America’s moral high ground? Secondly, Hillary is simply repeating the fact (known to all Chinese, even the least educated) that the government is corrupt, makes stupid and inhumane decisions on a regular basis, and then proceeds to cover up its mistakes. For now, most Chinese accept corruption and government repression as a fact of life, and they would like the system to change, but IMO, a foreign secretary of state lecturing the Chinese government is not going to facilitate this process. The Party has framed the Google issue as a business dispute, and they’ll see Hillary’s speech as America throwing down the gauntlet over a Chinese sovereignty issue, over whether a sovereign nation can make companies within its jurisdiction abide by local laws. Not only that, but the speech will be seen as an attempt to force American Internet standards on China. Now, if a Chinese blogger takes Google’s side and extols the value of openness and transparency on the Internet, he will be seen as a Western pawn, undermining Chinese sovereignty in league with the world’s superpower. He’ll be considered a greater threat after Hillary’s speech and perhaps subject to more severe censorship. It seems that every time Western leaders bring up human rights issues to China’s leadership, they’re doing it to please their domestic audiences and rarely succeed in improving the lives of the repressed groups in question.”
And, while I’m at it, a note from a reader with a non-Chinese name:
“I’ve just started reading Paul Farmer’s “The Uses of Haiti” which details the US government and business community’s support for Haitian dictators. Therefore, when I saw this quotation you pulled from Sec. Clinton’s speech today (“On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does.”), I couldn’t help but smirk and think, “Yes, the US takes aside, and it’s usually the side against freedom.” ”
Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.
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. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.
Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.
Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.
We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more here about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks can read this Report to Congress (PDF) by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (see p. 163-), as well as a related analysis (PDF) prepared for the Commission, Nart Villeneuve’s blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.
We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China’s economic reform programs and its citizens’ entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.
We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that “we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.”
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. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, 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. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.
Update: Added a link to another referenced report in paragraph 5.
Posted by David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer
A new approach to China
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Posted by Scott Cleland at 16:54
Posted by Neel Mehta, Security Team In January, we discussed a set of highly sophisticated cyber attacks that originated in China and targeted many corporations around the world. We believe that malware is a general threat to the …
Posted by Jay at 14:05
Posted by at 02:08
Google continues to send very mixed messages to the world about Internet freedom. While Google’s PR machine has focused world attention on it’s decision to stop censoring its search results in China, (which I commend Google for finally …
Posted by Scott Cleland at 10:16
Idag gästbloggar Kal Ström på SSBD, med sina tankar kring Google och deras beslut att lämna Kina;. “The engineers in the room were rolling their eyes. Patel recalls: “Some of us were very anticorporate, and we didn’t like the idea of …
Posted by Samesamebutdifferent at 14:38
Since January, a fascinating showdown between one of the world’s most important companies and the world’s most powerful emerging country has had the heads of tech journalists, entrepreneurs and human rights activists — not to mention …
Posted by Nathaniel Whittemore at 12:00
Posted by Alan Davidson, Director of Public Policy This afternoon I’m testifying before the Congressional – Executive Commission on China on our new approach in China and what led to it. As we’ve said, figuring out how to make good on …
Posted by Google Public Policy Blog at 10:32
Tech news is complicated enough. But throw in some international relations and a heavy dose of spying allegations, and you’ve got yourself a news story that plenty of people talk about, but few people really understand. …
Posted by John Sutter at 09:39
大家都知道，我虽然写的不好，但不愿意转，除非是我真的喜欢的不得了的。我就不费口舌了，仅仅希望更多的人知道。原文在 此：http://monnand.appspot.com/post/191001. 当初google说可能会离开中国，我没有在blog上发言。一来是因为当时忙，没空写博客；二 …
Posted by rocksun at 09:08
google-vs-china. Round 1. 27th Jan 2006. “We’re in this for the long haul. In the years to come, we’ll be making significant and growing investments in China. Our launch of google.cn, though filtered, is a necessary first step toward …
Posted by Prateek Waghre at 21:19
Google走了，Google高级副总裁大卫德鲁蒙德在Google官方网站发布博文“新的中国策略（更新）”。让人感动的是博文的最后写 道：“Google明确指出，所有的这些决定的推动均是由美国的管理人员执行的，与谷歌中国员工无关，中国的员工不应该被追究责任，Google …
Posted by 十亿分贝 at 20:30
Google and China have been “discussing” a lot lately about BigG services. What is Google going to do? ChinaGServices. I am not going to discuss who is right and who is wrong, and limit myself to point you to a web page worth checking if …
Posted by cervelli at 09:36
Google va a redirigir todo el tráfico proveniente de China a sus servidores en Hong Kong en un nuevo capítulo de las intricadas relaciones que mantienen estos dos imperios. Así lo anunció ayer Google a través de su blog oficial. …
Posted by Sebastián Thüer at 07:47
Google 事件總算落幕, 搜索服務於今天(美國時間3/22 下午, 中國時間3/23 凌晨)退出中國市場, 在此做相關紀錄. 目前Google 的做法: 將Google CN ( http://www.google.cn/ ) 轉換到Google HK ( http://www.google.com.hk/ ). …
Posted by Tsung Hao at 07:40
There are now over 1.7 billion internet users in the world, sending more than 270 billion emails each day. Over 400 million people use Facebook each month (about 50% of them daily). Over 50 million Tweets are sent each day and over 75 …
Posted by Craig Thomler at 06:37
Posted by David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer. (cross-posted from the Official Google Blog). On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other US companies had been the …
Posted by Google Public Policy Blog at 04:31
Dal blog ufficiale di Google. La battaglia per la verità si fa in rete, a viso scoperto: a lato è vsibile online la disponibilità dei servizi di Google nella Cina popolare. A new approach to China: an update. 3/22/2010 12:03:00 PM …
Posted by Centro Culturale della Svizzera Italiana at 00:20
Google has shutdown its Chinese search engine and is now redirecting the users to its HK domain.Google is now showing uncensored results, though in all reality Chinese government will block the HK access to Chinese. …
Posted by Editorial at 22:40
(Cross-posted from the Google Blog). On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other US companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, and that during our …
Posted by Zareen at 21:46
China’s decision today to block access to Google’s search sites represents a dramatic, but perhaps inevitable, escalation in the conflict between the open search service and the closed government. The situation is still fluid, …
Posted by Nick Summers at 21:42
Posted by 独角兽资讯 at 10:43
In January, Google revealed that hackers had launched ambitious attacks on the company and its properties. The attacks came from China, it said, and some targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. …
Posted by Chris Amico at 19:27
2010 年 3 月 23 日 Posted by デビッド ドルモンド ／ 企業開発担当副社長、最高法務責任者 Google は 1 月 12 日に、Google を含めた 20 社以上の米国企業が、中国からの高度なサイバー攻撃を受けたと発表しました。また、中国に関連した複数の人権 …
Posted by japanpr at 18:46
200px-Google_logo_cn The Chinese netizens were demanding answers from Google, and they got them. The Internet giant, who is about to abandon its China operations after it discovered cyber attacks on its corporate servers from China, …
Posted by Javier Sierra at 17:34
因为blogspot被墙, 为了让大家更方便看到, 我转帖了该文: 3/22/2010 12:03:00 PM. On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other US companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating …
Posted by nickcheng at 17:14
L’entreprise américaine Google a annoncé, le 22 mars 2010, l’arrêt de la censure de la version chinoise de son moteur de recherche google.cn. Les utilisateurs de google.cn sont désormais redirigés vers Google.com.hk, où ils ont accès à …
Posted by at 14:04
Après avoir dénoncé des attaques en provenance de la chine vers son infrastructure début 2010, Google se retire officiellement de la chine. Depuis ce soir Google.cn redirige vers Google.com.hk (Google Hong Kong). …
Posted by Mr Xhark at 13:48
J’ai failli manquer la nouvelle du jour. Ce midi GST (Google Standard Time), la firme de Mountain View a annoncé sur cette page que plus tôt dans la journée, ils avaient cessé de censurer leurs services de recherche—Google Search, …
Posted by Claude Malaison at 13:27
A new approach to China: an update. 3/22/2010 12:03:00 PM. On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other US companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, …
Posted by Buddhist_philosopher at 12:49
p2pnet view P2P | Advertising:- Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has publicly backed Google’s stance in China, “saying he believes the company’s presence in the country is a ‘positive force’,” says the Telegraph. …
Posted by Jon at 06:38
Posted by Arctosia at 01:09
Baidu (BIDU) is up around 50% since Google’s suicidal announcement back in January. It didn’t take a great genius to recognize that what is bad for GOOG is good for BIDU, but how many were quick enough to get in below $400 and have …
Posted by C. Maoxian at 03:57
Google ha cifrado en un 99,9% las posibilidades de cerrar su filial en China tras unas negociaciones infructuosas con su gobierno. Como respuesta a unos ataques informáticos recibidos a principio de año y que Google y la inteligencia …
Posted by Editorial RWWES at 09:56
Google again shows signs to exit China. In January 2010, Google disclosed the large scale attack on its infrastructure and made an official announcement to stop search result censorship on Google.cn and in China. …
Posted by Gordon Choi at 09:22
HONG KONG — A few weeks ago, Jonathan Stray looked at how news is reported and repeated in the new news ecosystem by tracking a single international story — the revelation that last year’s hacking of Google and other companies had been …
Posted by Jinzhi Dong at 09:00
1. Why A Salad Costs More Than A Big Mac. The Farm Bill, a massive piece of federal legislation making its way through Congress, governs what children are fed in schools and what food assistance programs can distribute to recipients. …
Posted by Paul Tulipana at 03:30
Google’s embroilment with Chinese authorities is finally coming to a close with it making up its mind to completely shut down its China operations. Google enraged a war against Chinese censorship when it made public its intention to no …
Posted by Raghav Soni at 01:32
Posted by zybernav at 04:14
Photo credit: Karen Wickre via Danny Sullivan. The following was cross-posted on the new Edelman Digital web site. Another month, another visit to Silicon Valley – my home away from home – and, with it, another visit to the Googleplex …
Posted by at 12:18
After the Chinese break in, Google has a new approach to China. (source: Google) Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated …
Posted by Beanieville at 07:52
Two Google executives have again assured onlookers that the company is dealing with the situation in China. While in Abu Dhabi, Eric Schmidt indicated today that something will happen sooner rather than later, and Nicole Wong told …
Posted by Doug Caverly at 12:09
Google took flak a few years ago when it announced that it would cooperate with Chinese censorship to operate a Chinese version of the Google search engine. The company’s top brass wrung their hands about the decision, since it seemed …
Posted by email@example.com (Paul Jacob) at 00:12
The United States has a tradition of generally broad protection of freedom of speech, which has persisted in the Internet age. Thus American courts have struck down most laws attempting to limit content on the Internet, …
Posted by Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship at 14:10
New research from Piper Jaffray suggests that Google actually may have increased its censorship by ~30% in China since Google grand-standed on the world stage in January pledging that it would no longer censor search results on China.cn …
Posted by Scott Cleland at 08:43
Oryginalnie opublikowane przezRobert Woo · Tłumaczone przez Sylwia Presley · Przeczytaj oryginalny post. Tak zwana ‘Operacja Aurora’, która zaatakowała Google i przynajmniej 33 inne konglomeraty zachodnie, podobno miała źródło na dwóch …
Posted by Sylwia Presley at 14:53
The data about Aurora has always felt just a little off for me. Maybe its that everyone writing about it just has their own piece of the puzzle to analyse, without the detail required to accurately link the pieces together. …
Posted by nart at 13:01
Remember the cyberattacks against Google and other businesses back in China? Google blogged about “A new approach to China” and it was all over the news everywhere for a while. Well, this week security firm Damballa released a detailed …
Posted by Dan York at 09:07
It appears Google impetuously over-reacted to the big cyber-security breach of Google and a reported ~30 other companies. Google alone publicly blamed China and only Google publicly pledged to stop censoring search results in China in …
Posted by Scott Cleland at 08:18
The cyber criminals who hacked into Google’s systems may have attacked more than 100 other companies, according to new information from security consultancy Isec Partners. Google announced in January that its systems had suffered a …
Posted by Piyush Sood at 19:23
On January 12th, Google said they “are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered …
Posted by Philipp Lenssen at 22:10
First time I heard a little more discussion about the China situation. “Sergey Brin on Google’s China decision @ TED“. TED BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Onstage at TED2010, TED curator Chris Anderson interviews Google’s Sergey Brin about the …
Posted by kempton at 10:51
· Traduit par Rougemer ·. [Les liens sont en chinois ou en anglais] La fameuse “opération Aurora” ( 极光行动) est décrite comme une série de cyber-attaques qui a débuté en décembre 2009 pour se prolonger jusqu’en février de cette année. …
Posted by Rougemer at 03:48
TED BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Onstage at TED2010, TED curator Chris Anderson interviews Google’s Sergey Brin about the company’s recent statement on China. (Recorded at TED2010, in Long Beach, California, February 2010. Duration: 8:24.) …
Posted by at 13:45
We often talk about the new news ecosystem — the network of traditional outlets, new startups, nonprofits, and individuals who are creating and filtering the news. But how is the work of reporting divvied up among the members of that …
Posted by Jonathan Stray at 07:00
On January 12 Google claimed that hackers from China had attempted to break into its infrastructure, in order to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Because of those hacks, along with other malware attacks on …
Posted by Richard MacManus at 01:19
MpanoratraRobert Woo · Nandika Jentilisa · vakio ato ny lahatsoratra nadika. Araka ny fitantaran’nyNew York Times vao haingana ilay nolazaina ho ‘Operation Aurora’, izay namely ny Google sy ireo vondronorinasa tandrefana 33 …
Posted by Jentilisa at 12:41
According to breaking news from the Wall Street Journal, Google will be resuming talks with China after the Chinese New Year holiday over the future of the companys… … search engine in the heavily censored country. …
Posted by at 06:11
Posted by Peter Campbell at 07:25
I just typed “Google Buzz” into Google’s news search, idly curious to see if the global zeitgeist about the service had significantly shifted, but instead I came across a barrage of articles like these: Allen Stern writes, …
Posted by mitsu at 00:11
The so-called ‘Operation Aurora’, which attacked Google and at least 33 other western conglomerates, allegedly originated from two Chinese universities, according to a recent New York Times story. One of the these ‘universities’ is, …
Posted by Robert Woo at 22:07
When I was at school, I almost never took sick days. This wasn’t because I enjoyed going to school – I really, really didn’t. Rather it was because I knew exactly what would happen if I dared to skip even a day of classes. …
Posted by Paul Carr at 09:00
US strategy towards China has been particularly confusing to many people. It is strange that the two major economic power of the world today would taunt each another in so many different issues. This UK Guardian article nicely …
Posted by jseng at 08:48
Some 75000 computers at 2500 corporations around the world have been compromised by a botnet attack that has been in progress for more than a year, according to a Virginia-based security firm. NetWitness, which published the data on its …
Posted by Nick Summers at 06:45
Google announced that it would cease (well, phase out) censoring the results in google.cn, the Chinese-language version of its famed search engine. It’s a pretty stunning move, both in its fact and in its execution. …
Posted by C. C. at 18:00
Hier soir se tenait la première édition de l’année du Third Tuesday, en compagnie de l’experte en marketing des communautés Tara Hunt. Le Daylight Factory débordait de monde, tous venus pour élargir leurs horizons en écoutant les …
Posted by Christophe Camart at 09:15
I’ve been waiting a while to do this post – several weeks actually since my original post. In that post, I applauded Google’s apparent interest in reigning censorship as “the first really truly non-evil thing I have seen Google do in …
Posted by RSnake at 14:07
Quelle: www.flickr.com (LucasDime). China gilt als aufstrebende Weltmacht. Die florierende Wirtschaft steht in krassem Kontrast zu den negativen Schlagzeilen aus dem Reich der Mitte: Zensur und Menschenrechtsverletzungen gehören zum …
Posted by Tristan Tarpani at 10:32
Google hat mit viel Lärm sein neustes Kind eingeführt: Buzz. Offensichtlich will man damit Twitter und Facebook ins Schwitzen bringen. Den etwas späten Start möchte Google wohl damit wettmachen, dass es alles schon schön integriert in …
Posted by at 12:06
Billet publié par Bob Chen · Traduit par Rougemer · Voir le billet en anglais. Cette revue de blogs a été publié le 23 janvier sur Global Voices en anglais. [Les liens sont en chinois ou en anglais] Des millions d’internautes chinois se …
Posted by Rougemer at 08:04
Escarpment. It turns out there’s been an update to Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” policy. Remember a month ago, how they said they weren’t going to be censoring Chinese search results anymore? We have decided we are no longer willing to …
Posted by mhoye at 12:03
jcarr-cyber-warfare-cover.png The public rift between Google and China may have elevated cyber security and cyber warfare into the public’s consciousness, but truth is, network attacks and Internet-based espionage are nothing new. …
Posted by Mac Slocum at 10:00
La relación de China con internet siempre ha sido tirante, el gobierno ha impuesto una férrea censura, mediante lo que se conoce como la segunda gran muralla china y otras medidas represivas. Sin embargo hay una enormemente activa …
Posted by Juan Arellano at 18:47
Last month, Google received high praise from human rights supporters after threatening to exit the Chinese search market, claiming it was no longer comfortable with censoring search results per government demands. …
Posted by Sarah Perez at 07:55
The latest BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition, Volume 50, focuses on the fallout from the Google’s threat to pull out of China, due to a series of sophisticated hacks and attacks on Google, as well as a dozen more IT companies. …
Posted by Dana Gardner, Interarbor Solutions at 22:00
The latest BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition, Volume 50, focuses on the fallout from the Google’s threat to pull out of China, due to a series of sophisticated hacks and attacks on Google, as well as a dozen more IT companies. …
Posted by Dana Gardner, Interarbor Solutions at 22:00
It showed the life story of a man, all through his Google searches. He traveled to Paris (“study abroad Paris”), met a woman at a restaurant (“cafes near the Louvre”), fell in love (“how to impress French girls”), …
Posted by Dave Thompson at 18:06
When I heard that Google – the world’s largest and ever expanding privacy allergic technological empire – had enlisted the National Security Agency (the agency responsible for such privacy violation greatest hits as warrantless …
Posted by CFC at 13:20