Google’s About Turn in China

My latest BBC column looks at what Google is up to in China – read it on the BBC News website as usual.

Google has responded to what it terms “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure” aimed at getting access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists by announcing its desire to stop censoring search results on its website.

Writing on the official Google blog the company’s chief legal officer David Drummon says that “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”.

But there is clearly little expectation that this will be possible and Google has apparently decided that it will, if necessary, stop operating in China.

Read the whole thing.

However the story has moved fast – I said ‘

Here in the UK, Peter Barron, former editor of BBC Newsnight and now Google UK’s head of communications, has been all over the media giving their side of the story.

I haven’t seen any response from Chinese government spokespeople, and doubt one will be forthcoming.

Google may be big news in the west, but the decision of one search engine provider to renege on its agreement to follow local laws and ask for an exemption is unlikely to merit a formal response.

But I reckoned without the intervention of the US Administration in the row, which is turning it into a diplomatic incident. Perhaps there was more behind the decision than first seemed to be the case… this one might have legs.

We Still See Security Through a Lens, Darkly

My latest BBC column was at the end of the year, as I only seem to manage 3 weeks out of 4 at the moment because of the pressure of other things.  It’s about contact lens displays and our inability to design security in from the start, and can be read on the BBC News Website as usual:

As December comes to an end journalists and pundits around the world have been telling us which devices or technologies they think are the most important from the last year.

Here on the BBC tech site Rory Cellan-Jones chooses cloud computing while Jonathan Fildes opts for smartphone applications and Maggie Shiels reveals her love for her Blackberry, to which she is clearly addicted.

Picking one innovation as the most important or as representative of a year is notoriously difficult, but it is at least retrospective.

The iTunes Application Store was one of the year’s biggest successes, whatever one might think of Apple’s arbitrary approvals process or the constraints placed on application authors, and Google really did launch Wave, albeit as an early, buggy alpha release.

Looking forward is much trickier…