Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Good for Google!

From 1: Liberation 2: BBC :

Google Has the Chutzpah to Warn That Its Pages Are Censored in China
By Philippe Grangereau
Tuesday 21 February 2006

Two official newspapers launch a charge against the research engine. Claiming that it's not in conformity with Chinese law and is wrong to detail that "a part of content cannot be shown" on the bottom of its pages.

Two official Chinese publications suggested Tuesday that even though research engine Google had agreed to censor its Chinese version (Google.cn), it has not gone far enough. Moreover, they assert that Google has not obtained the requisite license from the Popular Republic. "Google.cn is clearly an outlaw," writes the China Business Times. According to Beijing News, the Ministry of Information will be "jumping on the issue."

A Google spokesperson retorted that the American company indeed enjoys a license in good order and that if that license is not in its own name, but in the name of its Chinese partner (Ganji.com), that's because the Chinese government prohibits foreign Internet companies to operate there directly. They may not, in fact, operate there at all, except in the framework of a partnership with a Chinese company in which the foreign operator is the minority partner.

This maneuver by the official press seems to be designed to intimidate the American company, which the Chinese authorities reproach for warning at the bottom of each of its research engine's pages, "In conformity with the rules, directives, and local laws, part of content may not be shown." This mention has aroused debate among Chinese internet users who never used to be reminded that they are censored. Yahoo, which also censors its Chinese content, has refrained from saying so.

In the same article, the China Business Times, which often adopts an arrogant, even chauvinist, tone, condemns the fact that Google has the honesty to warn the surfer that he is deprived of pages deemed politically incorrect by the Communist authorities. "Does a company working in China constantly need to tell its clients that it respects the laws of the country?" This official publication asks, "Isn't Google fundamentally like an uninvited guest who declares to his host that he doesn't like the dishes offered to him, but that he'll eat them anyway out of respect for him?"

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.


Google Throws Out US Data Demand
BBC News
Monday 20 February 2006

Google has formally rejected a demand from the US government to hand over a week's worth of search records.

The rejection was made in court documents Google filed in response to official demands for search data.

In the strongly-worded papers Google said the request would violate the privacy of its users and reveal trade secrets to its rivals.

It also added that handing over the data was impractical and would not accomplish what the government wanted.

Rejection Letter:

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) made the request for a week's worth of search records in late January. It made similar requests of other big net firms such as Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL.

Initially, Google resisted the request from the DoJ and in court documents filed over the weekend has formally rejected it. The 25 page document uses strong language to criticise the request for a list of the search terms used in a typical week.

The DoJ has made the request to shore up attempts to show that voluntary regulation is not doing a good enough job of keeping children free of the unsavoury material, largely pornographic, that exists online.

The document expressed its disbelief in US goverment assertions that the list of search words would help understand user behaviour.

"This statement is so uninformed as to be nonsensical," comments the document.

Google said the government request was flawed because it constantly tuned the algorithms behind the index that returns particular sites for particular search terms.

This tinkering means that results for one search may not be the same from week to week.

Google also said that it would take more than a week of work by one of its engineers to compile the list.

The documents go on to say: "Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google search box ... that Google will keep private whatever information users communicate absent a compelling reason."

The American Civil Liberties Union also filed court documents supporting Google's stance.

Lawyers for the ACLU wrote: "This subpoena is the latest example of government overreaching, in which the government apparently believes it can demand that private entities turn over all sorts of information about their customers just because the government asserts that it needs the information."

A court hearing to decide the row is scheduled for 13 March.

Despite its stand against the DoJ demands for search data, Google has been heavily criticised in recent weeks for its stance in China where it is co-operating with the regime's demands for control of the net.

In early February at a US Congressional hearing Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco Systems and Google all faced strong criticism over how they conducted themselves in China.


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