Google may be about to cease operating in China entirely, after suffering a large-scale politically motivated cyber attack originating from the region, and ongoing rows over censorship with the Government.
The attacks were targeted against the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, in an attempt to access and gain information from them. Subsequent security reviews have revealed that Gmail accounts based in the US, China, and Europe belonging to ‘advocates of human rights in China’ have been routinely accessed by third parties.
Google says the attacks originated from China, though stops just short of blaming the Chinese government for directly orchestrating them.
The firm has now said it will no longer censoring any of its results in China, which was a pre-requisite of it being allowed to operate in the region. If it is unable to run an unfiltered internet search service in the country, it said it would shut down Google.cn, and potentially the regional offices.
As Google will know, since internet censorship is so rigorously upheld by the government, such a compromise seems unlikely to be achieved.
A statement form the firm read: "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."
"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."