Don’t think for a minute that Google is defying China out of the goodness of its own heart.
Some of the headlines around Google’s “new approach” to the growing world power (i.e. an ultimatum to the Chinese government that it will no longer censor search results on Google.cn) suggest that the company is putting human rights concerns first.
But it’s worth reading between the press release lines on this one.
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.
Well, that and China has the potential to become the most significant media market in the world.
Human rights concerns didn’t stop Google entering into agreements with China in 2006 — and they’re not the main reason for the stand-off now — as TechCrunch put it, this more about business than “thwarting evil”.
It’s also about the theft of Google’s intellectual property: property that consists of detailed information about our online behaviour. This is a war over the information we volunteer every time we click, who owns in, and most importantly, who has access to it.