If you’ve ever seen a Mafia movie, you know that playing nice with the mob is like having the tiger by the tail. It is no different for companies who do business in China, whether on their own or through partnerships. The latest one to experience the downside of this is eBay’s Skype, which has been taking some flack for privacy breaches in the region.
Citizen Lab, an Internet research group at the University of Toronto, released a report that shows text messages of Chinese Skype users were monitored and their messages blocked if they included political words such as the Chinese Communist Party, the Falun Gong, Tibet, and the great milk scandal. As a quick background, Skype and TOM teamed up in 2004 and in 2005 released a special software version, TOM-Skype. Since then Chinese users — some 69 million of them — have become a major part, roughly 20 percent, of Skype’s total install base of 338 million.
The report got so much attention that last evening Skype decided to respond. In a blog post, Josh Silverman (Check out my interview with Josh) tries to defend Skype and downplay its role in the China fracas:
Read the details of Om’s analysis. It ain’t long. It is cogent.
Seriously guys, these compromises are routine and will likely be commonplace. For for-profit entities (despite their slogans), China is a big, growth market and the promise of millions in future profits keeps them from making the right decisions for their shareholders. Sad, but true!
As political as I am, commerce is part of a whole equation involving nations and governments. History is another factor that I’m certain is automatic on Om’s part – as it is mine. Some cultures, many individuals, grow and learn to account for every reason why policies are what they are – and will change.
Whining isn’t good enough.