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June 23, 2006

Google Sells and House Committee Yells

Google has sold its modest 2% stake in Chinese rival Baidu, opting to grow its own business there.

In the meantime, the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations has approved the Global Online Freedom Act (HR 4780) by a voice vote.  The stated purpose of the bill is "[t]o promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments, and for other purposes."  The bill was a result of the hearings that excoriated tech companies for cooperating with the Chinese government to suppress dissidents.  Most of the companies represented at the hearing (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!) took the position that they had no choice but to cooperate with the Chinese government (as required by Chinese law) to keep on doing business there.

The bill would require companies from keeping personally identifiable information on servers in "Internet-restricting countries" and prohibit release of data except for legitimate law enforcement purposes.  Internet services providers also face potential fines for blocking access to any U.S. government web sites or content.  Microsoft called the bill unproductive.  Google and Yahoo! have not issued statements.

No word on whether the bill would have any impact on U.S. foreign intelligence gathering in "Internet-restricting countries."

The stories is in CNET here and here.

June 23, 2006 | Permalink

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