Google has begun routinely encrypting web searches conducted in China, posing a bold new challenge to that nation’s powerful system for censoring the internet and tracking what individual users are viewing online.
The company says the move is part of a global expansion of privacy technology designed to thwart surveillance by government intelligence agencies, police and hackers who, with widely available tools, can view e-mails, search queries and video chats when that content is unprotected.
Chinese officials – and those from other nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, that censor the Internet on a national level – will still have the option of blocking Google search services altogether. But routine, granular filtering of content will become more difficult, experts say. It also will become more difficult for authorities to monitor search queries for signs that an individual Internet user may be a government opponent, experts say.
China, in particular, has a “Great Firewall,” a censorship system known for its interception tactics of politically sensitive material. Google’s encryption program will make it so that their government will be unable to detect when users search for sensitive material. The Washington Post states the “Dalai Lama” and “Tienanmen Square” as examples. Google will now make these searches an indecipherable string of characters.
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