John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

New Chinese Version of Google SafeSearch Eliminates Google Entirely

Google’s mission, to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible, has once again run afoul of the Chinese government, which has a similar goal, but would much prefer that certain information stay inaccessible. And so, on Wednesday evening, Chinese citizens found themselves once again unable to use Google, Gmail and YouTube as their government condemned Google as a purveyor of porn.

“According to complaints from many residents, Google’s English language search engine has spread large amounts of vulgar content that is lascivious and pornographic, seriously violating China’s relevant laws and regulations,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regularly scheduled news conference. “I’d like to stress that, as an Internet enterprise providing services in China, should earnestly abide by Chinese laws and regulations.”

The disruption of Google (GOOG) services follows a widely criticized mandate from Beijing requiring all computers sold in the country to include Green Dam, an application designed to prevent citizens from viewing “offensive” content, which in the Chinese government’s case includes all manner of material. From a report by the Open Net Initiative, an academic consortium dedicated to the study of censorship and surveillance:

The version of the Green Dam software that we tested, when operating under its default settings, is far more intrusive than any other content control software we have reviewed. Not only does it block access to a wide range of web sites based on keywords and image processing, including porn, gaming, gay content, religious sites and political themes, it actively monitors individual computer behavior, such that a wide range of programs including word processing and email can be suddenly terminated if content algorithm detects inappropriate speech. The program installs components deep into the kernel of the computer operating system in order to enable this application layer monitoring. The operation of the software is highly unpredictable and disrupts computer activity far beyond the blocking of websites.

…The deeply intrusive nature of the software opens up several possibilities for use other than filtering material harmful to minors. With minor changes introduced through the auto-update feature, the architecture could be used for monitoring personal communications and Internet browsing behavior. Log files are currently recorded locally on the machine, including events and keywords that trigger filtering. The auto-update feature can used to change the scope and targeting of filtering without any notification to users.