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Tech Giants In Human Rights Deal 97

Ostracus writes "Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have signed a global a code of conduct promising to offer better protection for online free speech and against official intrusion." Anyone want to know what this means for China & Australia? I bet it means even less to all of us in America where every major data center has a secret room where the government sniffs our packets.
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Tech Giants In Human Rights Deal

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  • Good news, but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aproposofwhat ( 1019098 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:10AM (#25553455)

    I'll bet there's something in there 'respecting local laws' or similar, so the code will have no teeth.

    As soon as the Chinese say 'this AC is suspected of being Falun Gong', or the French say 'this AC has a SS dagger for sale', or the Australians say 'this AC has offended Family First', each and every signatory to the code will lube up and bend over.

    Sorry, but I don't think Google, Microsoft or Yahoo have the balls to stand up for free speech when faced with a lawsuit.

  • Re:Paranoia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sshuber ( 1274006 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:21AM (#25553555)
    I'd personally rather have them sniff my packets than outright block things I love. Australia obviously missed the memo: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5430343841227974645&hl=en [google.com]
  • Enemy at the gates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by not_an_agent ( 1396265 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:30AM (#25553645)
    I'd worry less about the government sniffing and more about double-click, google or other advertisers. They're poised to bombard you with junk created just to tempt you, while the gov can't keep track of its own watchlists. Anyway, you're still allowed to encrypt packets to keep the g-men out... for now.
  • Re:except ... morals (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gutnor ( 872759 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:50AM (#25553893)

    I guess we all miss the point here.

    It is not about 3 giants agreeing to "defend" Human Rights.

    It is 3 giants agreeing between themself that none of them will grow a conscience overnight, starts fighting for Human Rights and makes bad press for the other 2. Example: Google pulling out of China ... that would make MS and Yahoo look so bad. At the end of the day - future money is maybe in China, but today money is still in US/EU.

    So, not useless ... for them - just the same kind of PR-spin than DRM.

  • by oDDmON oUT ( 231200 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:55AM (#25553969)

    They were largely responsible for the Great [wired.com] Firewall [newsmax.com] of China [wired.com].

    So I would think that their involvement, as well as that of Nortel and other network gear OEMs, is more desirable than that of Application/OS/Search companies.

  • Re:Good news, but (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @10:23AM (#25554481)

    The part about laws does make a difference. In China the constitution is not exactly liberal, but it is more liberal than the behaviour of the police against dissidents would imply.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_PRC [wikipedia.org]
    Article 35 of the 1982 State Constitution proclaims that "citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration." In the 1978 constitution, these rights were guaranteed, but so were the right to strike and the "four big rights," often called the "four bigs": to speak out freely, air views fully, hold great debates, and write big-character posters. In February 1980, following the Democracy Wall period, the four bigs were abolished in response to a party decision ratified by the National People's Congress. The right to strike was also dropped from the 1982 Constitution. The widespread expression of the four big rights during the student protests of late 1986 elicited the regime's strong censure because of their illegality. The official response cited Article 53 of the 1982 Constitution, which states that citizens must abide by the law and observe labor discipline and public order. Besides being illegal, practicing the four big rights offered the possibility of straying into criticism of the Communist Party of China, which was in fact what appeared in student wall posters. In a new era that strove for political stability and economic development, party leaders considered the four big rights politically destabilizing. Except for the ostentatious six democratic parties, Chinese citizens are prohibited from forming parties.

    Of course in practice the political police will limit people's ability to exercise these, particularly freedom of speech. Multinationals refusing to do stuff that is unconstitutional does make a difference. It's also very much in their interests to not be seen to be blindly obedient to the more thuggish elements of the police should the system liberalise in future, which seems quite possible to me.

  • Re:Paranoia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @11:36AM (#25555959) Homepage
    They don't necessarily have a "secret room", but as I understand, CALEA, etc., requires every telco to have a plan in place to apply a tap to every circuit that they provide.

    Yes, I am a network administrator at a telco, and yes, the company I had to work for had to produce a CALEA-compliance plan about a year ago.

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