Today with a long post on the Google Blog, David Drummond (SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer) announced that it would cease to censor the search results on Google.cn, even if it means pulling out of China entirely.
In his post, David described the "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" that occurred last month, which not only target Google but a fleet of 20 other companies. These companies are from a wide range of businesses including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors.
Further investigations by Google revealed that these attacks were made with the primary objective of accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Fortunately, the attackers did not achieve this goal.
They also found out that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.
Although Google does not mention this explicitly on their Blog but implications are that the Chinese government had something to do with these attacks.
Google have already started to use the information gained from this attack to increase the security of Google and it's users by making the necessary infrastructure and architectural improvements.
And because of these attacks, Google have started to rethink about continuing their presence in China. The Chinese government and Google have fought over censorship before, but currently the search engine does block certain results (such as images of the Tiananmen Square massacre).
It's now quite clear that Google would no longer comply with China’s demands any longer. Here's what David had to say about this :
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.
With these announcement, Google has taken a bold step towards advocating the Freedom of Speech.