Google's Schmidt: China a "menace" to online security

Western companies will have to work more closely with governments to protect data, says Google's executive chairman

Stewart Mitchell
4 Feb 2013

Google's Eric Schmidt has launched a scathing attack on China, describing the country as a "menace" to the web.

In a preview of an upcoming book­ by Google's executive chairman, the Wall Street Journal unveiled a slew of criticisms against China, noting the prevalence and apparent acceptance of industrial espionage.

Google and China have clashed often in the past over web censorship, and Schmidt has branded the country as "the world’s most active and enthusiastic filterer of information".

According to Schmidt, western countries and companies are at a severe disadvantage because Chinese rivals are stealing their information, with little deterrent from China's authorities.

"The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States as a distinct disadvantage," Schmidt and his co-writer Jared Cohen said.

the United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage, as its laws are much stricter (and better enforced)

That's because "the United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage, as its laws are much stricter (and better enforced) and because illicit competition violates the American sense of fair play," they claim.

Schmidt also believes the lack of trust in China - typified by Chinese communication company Huawei facing accusations it could place backdoors in networks - could lead to more problems.

China's growing importance as a technology supplier will mean companies in other countries will need to increasingly align themselves with the government to guard against other countries mis-using their technologies," he said.

"There will come a time when their commercial and national interests align and contrast with China — say, over the abuse of their products by an authoritarian state — and they will coordinate their efforts with their governments on both diplomatic and technical levels," Schmidt says in the book, The New Digital Age.

Split in the web

The increasingly bitter war of words between officials in the US and China - and companies from both countries - could even lead to a split in the web, Schmidt believes, with separate forks built around different technologies used by countries with similar political ideologies.

Countries with freedom of speech laws and more open web rules could align themselves with a web based on Western attitudes and protocols, with other countries taking a more authoritarian approach.

"In the future, superpower supplier nations will look to create their spheres of online influence around specific protocols and products, so that their technologies form the backbone of a particular society and their client states come to rely on certain critical infrastructure that the superpower alone builds, services and controls," Schmidt wrote.

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