After what the company described as "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure", Google finally decided to end its obedience to China's policy on web censorship. And if forced, they threatened to leave the country and close all of its offices.
The attacks were targeted on Google's email service Gmail. The hackers attempted to access the Gmail accounts of known Human Rights activists that are protesting against China's suppression of what they believe as Freedom of Speech. The attack failed to see the content of the victim’s emails, but had penetrated Google infrastructure and were able to see up to the Subject line of the emails and the date of the account creation.
Further investigation revealed that some accounts of US, China, and Europe based activists are regularly visited by third parties. The hackers used phishing technique, emails that looks like genuine but contains links to websites that may install viruses that act as spy and steal your email passwords.
Chinese regime is known for blocking websites that talks about "sensitive national issues". Although Google lifted their filter, the Chinese government can still filter the web by their own firewall. This firewall is so efficient that it was known to be the "Great Firewall of China".
A Brave Move
Freedom of Speech advocates praised the brave move by the search engine giant calling them a company with the "balls" to do the right thing. Google doesn’t disclose their estimated loses if they leave the most populous country in the world. They even said that the burden of filtering search results even outweighed the benefits they are receiving. Google.cn is China's second most popular search engine with an estimated market share of 29%, Baidu.com being the first with 62%.
Last month, December 2009, the Australian government expressed the desire to implement a mandatory filtering of the web content.
For the official statement from Google, please visit Google's official blog at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/.