Don't Be Evil
While it is in some ways comforting news that Google has refused to comply, it's sadly most likely to hide trade secrets. These two events, though they may seem contradictory, were both money-driven decisions. People freaked out when they found out their surfing might no longer be untouchable and anonymous; Google's shares dropped 8.5% when the news of the subpoena came out (that means they're worth $20 billion less now than they did a while ago). Call me naive, but I, and many Google fans, had held out hope that in this money-driven world, the "users-first"-minded Google would show that ultimately humanity could triumph. But the potential to caplitalize on China's enormous population trumped the warm fuzzies. Even for a company whose motto is "don't be evil," when it comes to cashing in on a billion people's internet use, complying with a government whose ideals are directly contradictory to its founding vision, whose secretive practices have exacerbated world problems and whose demands require the obfuscation of truth, the definition of "evil" is bendable.
The government was looking to assess the prevalence on the internet of what it calls HTM — harmful to minor — not child pornography, but pornography that children can accidentally access. It turned out that AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! had all already complied with similar requests. [...] It is an incredibly worrying sign, not least because it shows the way governments might come to use search engines as a form of privatised surveillance.
Google has an extraordinary amount of information about its users. It logs all the searches made on it and stores this information indefinitely. Because every computer has a unique IP (internet protocol) address, every visit to every website can be traced back to the computer making it [...]. (Shi Tao, the Chinese journalist, was given 10 years in jail last April for “leaking state secrets” after Yahoo! in Hong Kong handed over information linking his IP address and his e-mail to the Chinese authorities.) Users of Google’s Gmail service, who are already having their e-mails scanned to place targeted ads, have given the company their identity, a full record of all their searches and copies of all their e-mails, stored indefinitely. [...] As the lawsuit makes clear, all this information is potentially vulnerable to subpoena.