At Monday’s panel on “The Ethics and Politics of Search Engines”, Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research, stated that Google is moving the databases they keep of Chinese searches outside of the country in order to prevent China’s government from being able to access the data without Google’s consent. “We didn’t want to be in the position of having to hand over these kinds of records to the government,” he said, according to reports.
I don’t fully understand how China would have access to Google’s databases without their consent, and I wonder where Google is moving the data? Of course, moving the data to the US doesn’t guarantee they will be free from government inspection.
The article reporting on the Santa Clara panel also has this nugget:
Google has agreed to Chinese censorship within the Google.cn domain because that’s simply part of lawfully doing business in China, Norvig said. “No matter what you do, censorship is there.” China’s government can enforce censorship at the ISP (Internet service provider) level, so having sites removed from the Google search results isn’t necessarily making matters any worse, he added.
These kind of sentiments are shocking from a company who’s corporate culture is supposed to revolve around the mantra of “Don’t be evil.” The logic that the “Chinese would censor the results anyway” fails to understand the effects of Google becoming complicit in such censorship, coding it into the design of their search engine, making it a systematic part of how they are “organizing the worlds information” for these citizens. Norvig seems to just be taking the “that’s business” line, which is truly unfortunate for a company founded on such strong ideals.