SecDev Group, an international security think tank based in Canada, has released a report that examines the ethics surrounding western technology corporations apparent collusion with the Chinese government's oppressive censorship and unmitigated domestic surveillance operations.
The report, titled Collusion and Collision: Searching for Guidance in Chinese cyberspace, focuses on the relationship between the totalitarian Chinese regime and western-based search engine giants such as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft’s Bing - which account for a 94% of the worlds search engine market share.
"Western corporations cashing in on the Chinese Information and Communications Technology (ICT) market face difficult ethical dilemmas.... Entering into the Chinese market as a search engine or social media provider is an ethical mine field. In the hands of authorities determined to police their subjects, search engines and social media platforms such as Facebook can become a potent tool of online repression," the report states.
The crux of the issue is whether or not these companies who are eager to exploit the vast and rapidly developing Chinese online marketplace should so easily concede to the Chinese government's demands to adhere to strict censorship and monitoring requirements which are fundamentally in opposition to western democratic values and in most cases the companies' very own policies and mission statements.
"China’s search engines implement and enforce state policy. They allow the past to be rewritten and make inconvenient truths disappear. Social discontent mobilized by local corruption or bureaucratic intransigence is redacted... Much like the memory hole described in George Orwell’s 1984, China’s search engines allow the past to become just as the present requires it to be," the report asserts.
The Washington Post notes that in 2005 Yahoo! complied with a Chinese government demand to provide private email correspondence data belonging to active political dissidents, including the outspoken poet Shi Tao, who was subsequently jailed.
While Yahoo! later apologized and sold off the controlling share of their operations in China, the damage had been done, and the motivations were purely profit driven.They also point out that Microsoft similarly has provided information and also voluntarily pulled the plug on reporter Zhao Jing's website at the behest of the Chinese government.
In contrast, Google ceased search engine operations in China due to the censorship requirements following revelations that the government had infiltrated the company's systems and stolen proprietary information as well as the email content of known dissidents.
The SecDev report goes on to describe the institutionalization of censorship and surveillance orchestrated under China's "Golden Shield" cyber security strategy.
"The Golden Shield project - an ambitious state cyber security strategy - has spawned an elaborate system that enables pervasive censorship of internet content, requires mandatory registration of new sites, and enforces strict self-policing by China’s online population."
According to the SeDev report, the onus in on western companies and governments to adhere to a higher ethical standard and cease succumbing to Chinese demands for collusion in their effort to stifle freedom of information.
"To do nothing is bad for business and bad for democracy. Inaction undermines the values of openness, access to knowledge, individual privacy and informed choice. It threatens the future of the internet and diminishes its value as a driver of global development and prosperity," the report states.
The full SecDev report can be accessed here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/65531793/Collusion-Collision