Google revealed today, that in mid-December 2009, they detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on their corporate infrastructure.
Originating from China, the attack resulted in the theft of intellectual property.
Although Google has not said who lead the attacks, they have stated that investigations show the primary goal of the attackers was to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
Google have been operating in China since 1999 with varying degrease of success. In the fall of 2002, Google services were completely cut off from Chinese citizens for two weeks, when they were restored, Google discovered many queries, especially politically sensitive queries, were not making it through to their servers. As a result of this forced-censorship, Google's services in China became slow and unreliable.
In 2005, Google took a serious look at their Chinese operations and re-assessed their approach.
Counter to Google’s basic values and commitments as a company and as a requirement of doing (reliable) business in China, Google have been self-censoring results on the Google.cn domain since 2006.
Since these attacks, Google have decided to review commitments with the Chinese government over the filtering of Google.cn and today have stated...
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.
Although China is a huge market that Google risk losing by taking this stand, the reality is that for China to succeed internationally, the Chinese Government must be able to adapt and work with international companies.
This is a huge call by Google with potentially massive consequences. One that should be supported by anyone who believes in the essential human right of free speech.
I applaud their decision and hope other companies have enough balls to follow suit.