Google went into China a little while back with a Google.cn search engine that provides customized censored results, as per the wishes of the Chinese Communist Party. But now the Chinese government seems to be involved in a number of efforts to hack into gmail accounts of people involved with China human rights advocacy, and has Google reconsidering its approach:
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.
The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.
I would also note that for all the hype about “cyberwar” or “cyberterrorism,” as best I can tell this sort of thing—cybersnooping—is much more common. Breaking into people’s email accounts is a lot less dramatic than blowing something up. But it’s also a relatively low-stakes, low-intensity move for a government to undertake. And intelligence is always in high demand.