Google have always had a strained relationship with China. With Government censorship rife and state search engine Baidu more popular with users, it has been a difficult market for the Internet giant to crack.
Today Google have announced that they will no longer be self-censoring their results (as evidenced by the hugely controversial inclusion of the illegal image of the ‘Tank Man’ in the Tiananmen Square protests) and are considering a full withdrawal from the Chinese market.
This unprecedented move comes in the wake of user accounts being hacked from within the country; whilst not openly accusing the Government, Google clearly take this violation of its users’ information extremely seriously, so much so that they can afford to walk away from one of the most lucrative, or at least potentially lucrative, world markets.
The news was greeted with a fall of 1.1% in Google’s share price. With Government interference a way of life for most businesses in the communist nation, some might question the intelligence of such a move. China is also one of the most populated nations on earth accounting for 20% of all inhabitants (around 1.35 billion people…according to Google) and is one of the fastest growing economies too, making it rich pickings for a variety of foreign business interests.
Whether or not Google leave the Chinese market, or indeed are forced out following their anti-censorship stance, they have probably sent a very positive message to the rest of the world. Firstly, they take invasion of their users’ privacy extremely seriously, and secondly, they won’t conform with unethical practices, even if it is to the detriment of their income and stock value.
Google often take a lot of criticism for their monopoly-like stranglehold on the search market, but in this instance, they could well be showing another, more ethical side of their business; something which could thaw the freeze that has been shown towards them in some sectors. However, I wouldn’t expect this announcement to be the last we hear of it, so we’ll be keeping a keen eye on any future developments here.