Chinese web control an Olympic challenge for tech firms

Chinese web censorship has been a hot topic ahead of the Beijing Olympics, but it’s not just journalists being hit – IT firms and other businesses are also being hit by online restrictions.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft, Google and Yahoo were teaming up to create a code of conduct for their activities in repressive countries such as China. The code's details are yet to be released, but letters to US government officials suggested it would set out "principles of freedom of expression and privacy" for the firms, and help them use their bulk power to prevent such governments from pressuring companies into divulging private user information or blocking access to websites.

If Microsoft, Google and Yahoo feel the need to protect themselves, other companies or individuals whether there for the games or just for business should clearly think twice, too.

On lockdown

Local ISPs and internet data centres have reportedly sent "lockdown notices" to their customers, which explain that for the bulk of August, said customers will not be able to enter their data centres or add new hardware, and that any "illegal" information will be blocked immediately and unblocking won't be quick.

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One such note reads: "For the duration of the server lockdown, all operational activities and all network-related operations (such as: network adjustment, machine replacement, IP switching, installation of new servers etc.) will cease, though mainframe breakdown repair procedures will not be affected."

Security concerns

When most people think of China and internet security, they think malware. But it's not malware that's the trouble on a trip to China, it's spying and data theft.

Those travelling to China have been warned to either take a "clean" computer without any important data on it or ensure they have encrypted their valuable information, to avoid losing it to the Chinese government, who are thought to monitor telecommunications infrastructure.

PGP's Phil Dunkelberger said encryption could help protect executive's plans or journalists contact lists being stolen something that was attempted on activists during the Tibetan troubles earlier this year. "What the Chinese tried to do was infiltrate their security to see who in China the Tibet movement was talking to," he told Reuters.

"Whether it's a file or an e-mail, if you're worried about it, you should probably encrypt it," Dunkelberger said.

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"You've got to suspect that every place you're doing work is being monitored and being watched," he added.

Additional reporting from Reuters.

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