Fletcher in the News

Google Encrypts Search, Aims To Foil China, NSA: Dean Chakravorti Comments

Bhaskar Chakravorti is a Senior Associate Dean at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Google is moving to encrypt search globally, aiming to bypass government censorship – and inhibit NSA snooping.

Its latest step is to start automatically encrypting searches made in China, in an effort to counter the censorship system known as the Great Firewall of China. Using this, the Chinese government intercepts searches to check for prohibited phrases such as ‘Dalai Lama’ and ‘Falun Gong’, using its findings to target possible malcontents. That should no longer be possible…

…It’s worth remembering that Google has only a tiny proportion of the Chinese search market – about 1.4 percent, compared with home-grown search engine Baidu's 60.5 percent. And the new security won’t even apply to all of that 1.4 percent. Older browsers such as Internet Explorer 6 – still in widespread use in China – don’t support the automatic encryption.

“Most users have defaulted to Baidu for search. The younger folk who persist with Google may have found ways around these speed bumps already by accessing proxy servers and the like,” says Bhaskar Chakravorti, senior associate dean of International Business and Finance at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.  “To my mind, this is primarily a smoke signal sent up by Google about its “new digital age” mission.  As far as real impact, the state still has the upper hand. ”

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