The Chinese media isn't taking kindly to Google's recent accusations. The People's Daily, a Community Party newspaper, published a front-page editorial in Monday's overseas edition flatly stating that Google "slandered" the nation last week.
"Google, What Do You Want?" was the headline of the editorial that blasts Google for accusing China of hosting hackers who launched a phishing attack on Gmail users. The article argues that Google is making false claims to cause trouble between the U.S. and China.
News reports are publishing translations of the editorial that say Google tries "again and again to discredit China, and used public opinion to sing the China threat theory." The editorial also called Google a "political tool" that has "betrayed the spirit of the Internet."
Google Employees at Risk?
The editorial follows last week's news that a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the accusations are "unacceptable" and called them "a fabrication out of thin air." Google couldn't be reached for comment, but a spokesperson said Google is not backing down from its assessment of the phishing attack.
"We think users should be aware of the disturbing campaign we've uncovered to collect user passwords and monitor user e-mail," the Google spokesperson said in a published statement. "Our focus now is on protecting our users and making sure everyone knows how to stay safe online."
As Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, sees it, not even a company as big as Google has the resources to go against a small country -- let alone one of the most powerful companies in the world.
"This puts Google employees in-country at risk because if the country wants to respond with the full weight of the law behind it -- and remember that the government is the law -- some Google employees could find themselves incarcerated or worse," Enderle said. "So they have to be very careful here."
Enderle is reminded of Microsoft in its antitrust battles. Microsoft, he said, was absolutely convinced it was untouchable. The price to pay was heavy. For Google, it's not a Department of Justice battle, but the company could find itself locked out of China.
"For a company of Google's scale and stature to be locked out of the fastest-growing market would be a serious blow to their global aspirations," Enderle said. "Google is playing with fire here and they are way overmatched. They are being foolish and repeating a mistake that Microsoft has already made."
Last Wednesday, Google reported that its cloud-based security and abuse detection systems discovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing attacks. Google said the campaign appeared to originate from Jinan, China.
The target? The personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users, including senior U.S. government officials; Chinese political activists; officials in several Asian countries, predominantly South Korea; military personnel; and journalists.
"The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users' e-mails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples' forwarding and delegation settings," Eric Grosse, engineering director of the Google Security Team, wrote in a blog post.
"Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users' passwords and monitor their e-mails," he wrote. "We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities."
In March, Google claimed China was blocking or interfering with Gmail accounts in China. Google accused the Chinese government of making it difficult for users there to access the web-based e-mail service. Google said it wasn't just a glitch like the one that took down thousands of Gmail accounts stateside earlier this month.