Google, Chinese Internet Censor, Wants 'International Privacy Standards'

Apparently, the world's largest Internet search business believes it has little to fear from those who object to its continued involvement with government censorship in communist China. Google agreed to censor its search-engine results in accordance with government wishes in January 2006. That control regime is still in place, as comparative searches on "Tiananmen" at Google.com and Google.cn readily show.

Oh, company co-founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page have said that what they agreed to do in Mainland China was a "mistake." But that's only because of the fallout, not the cooperation decision itself, as this January excerpt from the UK Guardian shows:

Last year in a speech in Washington Mr. Brin admitted the company had been forced to compromise its principles to operate in China. At the time, he also hinted at a potential reversal of its stance in the country, saying "perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense".

From what was said yesterday a policy change seemed unlikely in the near future. Co-founder Larry Page said: "We always consider what to do. But I don't think we as a company should be making decisions based on too much perception."

Much of the harm had come from newspaper headlines, he said, which affected perception for most people, who then did not read the actual articles.

So small is the company's concern over continued blowback that it has begun actively pushing for international privacy standards, expecting no one in Old Media to notice the irony.

The Washington Post's Catherine Rampall certainly didn't. Her 600-word story, which begins as follows, never mentions China or the search company's involvement with it:

Google, a frequent target of privacy advocates, yesterday called for new international standards on the collection and use of consumer data.

Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for Google, told a U.N. audience in Strasbourg, France, that fragmentary international privacy laws burden companies and don't protect consumers. He argued for an international body such as the United Nations to create standards that individual countries could then adopt and adapt to fit their needs.

"The ultimate goal should be to create minimum standards of privacy protection that meet the expectations and demands of consumers, businesses and governments," Fleischer said, according to a transcript of the speech provided by Google.

But what about a government which is uninterested in and hostile to privacy protections, and which instead uses its control of the Internet as part of an obvious attempt to perfect its police state?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.