In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. … [W]e have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. … [A]s part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. …
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China. [my emphasis]
It would be naive to believe that Google is making this decision on purely ethical grounds, and we’ll have to wait and see to what extent they actually follow through on this. And I still have a long list of very serious objections to Google, not the least of which is that they have been collaborating with Chinese state censors for years. But I think they are doing the right thing here.
Best wishes to Google’s employees in China. Hopefully they won’t end up paying for their American bosses’ change of heart.