Google has announced that its Chinese service will no longer censor its search results, according to the British news site Guardian. The decision follows recent cyber-attacks against Google and an increase in Chinese government controls on Internet access for its citizens.  As of now, Google is still censoring searches launched within China and will talk to the government about whether it is even possible to operate its service uncensored in China.

There are conflicting reports on Google’s future in that nation.  National Public Radio (NPR) reports that Google may pull out of China altogether rather than deal with Chinese government censorship.

Google’s controls are not fail-proof, that much is certain.  The attacks on Google appear to be politically motivated.  They originated in China and targeted intellectual property and e-mail accounts of human rights activists. As the  Guardian reports:

“The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said in a statement today that Gmail accounts used by journalists in at least two bureaux in Beijing had been hijacked and their emails forwarded to unknown email addresses. Last week several well-known Chinese advocates of human rights complained of the same problem.”

Although it has not been officially confirmed, the attacks targeted people with access to specific parts of Google’s networks. Those efforts may have been helped by Google’s own employees in the company’s China offices.

Guardian reports that the malware (malicious software) used in the attack was a modification of a trojan called Hydraq.  Trojans are hidden programs whose purpose is to provide unauthorized access to a computer.

The malware is not that important.   Who was targeted is at the heart of the matter.  The victims allude to the attack coming from the inside because the assailants knew exactly who they were seeking.  Furthermore, some Google China employees were denied access to internal networks, some were put on leave, and some were transferred to different offices, all shortly after the incident took place.

Google will not comment on its business operations, so it will be interesting to see what transpires, both from legal and business perspectives.  Google will not quickly forget a security breach of this magnitude;  a company always looking to grow may need to  expand upon its security measures as well.

About 

Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.

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