What you might not see on Chinese PCs

Jeremy Hobson Jun 8, 2009
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What you might not see on Chinese PCs

Jeremy Hobson Jun 8, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Today the Chinese government announced today that personal computers sold in China have to have blocking software. That goes for all manufacturers, including the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Dell. The order is already drawing fire from censorship watchdogs. But don’t expect computer-makers to say no to Beijing. Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson reports from San Francisco.


JEREMY HOBSON: The company that makes the software China is requiring says relax. It’s just there to block pornographic sites from children. And it can even be turned off by parents. But Stephen Hsu, a software developer with experience in cyber security, says it could act as a Trojan Horse for the Chinese government.

STEPHEN HSU: It can probably install other components without the user’s knowledge. It can monitor what the user’s doing.

Still, he says manufacturers could be forgiven for complying with Beijing’s order, because there’s not much difference between the Chinese program and, say, antivirus software on most U.S. computers.

HSU: This requirement is a requirement that manufacturers, and vendors ship the software with their machines. If you see a law later that requires individuals to actually run the software on their machines, that would be much more invasive and much more consequential.

When asked for comment today, PC makers either didn’t respond or said they were waiting for more information.

ROGER KAY: They’re not going to say “we’re standing on principle, and we believe in free speech,” but they might say, “we will find it very difficult to comply with your directive.”

Roger Kay is an industry analyst with Endpoint Technologies. He says the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. You can’t do business these days without doing business in China.

KAY: It’s one of the largest PC markets in the world, and it’s certainly the fastest growing.

Kay says until consumers outside China start rewarding companies that don’t play ball with Beijing’s government, there will be little incentive to resist.

In San Francisco, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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