Thursday, June 8, 2006 at 10:01 AM

Google founders admit spying for China was a mistake…duh!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

On 26 January 2006, I published an article criticizing Google for leaving its (self-proclaimed) enlightened corporate conscience back in America as a precondition for entering the Chinese market. Back then I wrote, in part, that:

Just days ago, I praised Google (as others had) for standing alone amongst major technology companies in defying the Bush Administration’s demand for information about the Internet searches and surfing habits of its customers. I was heartened by Google’s insistence that Americans had a reasonable expectation that their online activities would remain private.

…Yesterday, however, Google made a mockery of that principled stand by following the compromised corporate path to China that was blazed by Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL. Because, in exchange for access to the Chinese market, Google agreed to help China’s communist government
spy on and censor its citizens’ use of the Internet.

…I am profoundly dismayed by Google’s decision. But instead of fulminating against it, I feel moved to simply proffer a few questions that demand serious consideration in this context: [I invite you to click here to read this article in full.]

But in Washington DC yesterday, Google co-founder Sergey Brin (r) admitted – perhaps after duly considering the questions I proffered – that agreeing to spy for the Chinese government was a mistake. And, paying lip-service to the principle of conscience over profits, he confessed Google’s corporate sins by rationalizing that his company had:

…compromised its principles by accommodating Chinese censorship demands….We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference.

Well, so much for the decision to sell-out their conscience. Now these googleaires must decide how to extricate themselves from this Faustian compromise with what little remains of their corporate integrity. After all, this admission is rather like President George W. Bush finally admitting “mistakes were made” in Iraq. But no one cares anymore about his contrition. All anyone cares about now is when is he going to get American soldiers the hell out of Iraq!

And, so it is with Google. Because it’s one thing to be sufficiently stricken by one’s conscience to admit a mistake; however, it’s quite another to have the balls to do something about it.

NOTE: Despite their very public admission – made appropriately enough in a place where such admissions have real political, but no other, value – I’m not at all confident that Google will do the right thing. Because, in doublespeak that would make even Bill Clinton blush, Brin ended his corporate confession as follows:

…It’s perfectly reasonable to do something different, to say, ‘Look, we’re going to stand by the principle against censorship and we won’t actually operate there.’ That’s an alternate path….It’s not where we chose to go right now, but I can sort of see how people came to different conclusions about doing the right thing.

Spoken like a true smarmy geek, don’t you think….

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