China and censorship: the Green Dam fiasco

Maybe it’s just me, but the first thing I think of now when I hear “China” is “censorship.”

Two recent articles on Freedom to Tinker address the new “mandatory” Green Dam software. The first article by Dan Wallach exposes just how powerful censorship software becomes when installed on the end user’s PC. Since I doubt that Green Dam will be released under a free software license (this is China we’re talking about here) it also highlights just how dystopian things can get when one trusts proprietary, non-free software. This is either the bottom of the slippery slope or very far down it.

The second article by Ed Felten describes just how insecure Green Dam is. In essence it is a security breach waiting to happen. I’m not surprised. A quote from a University of Michigan report quoted within the article sums it up nicely:

Correcting these problems will require extensive changes to the software and careful retesting. In the meantime, we recommend that users protect themselves by uninstalling Green Dam immediately.

I honestly am quite surprised that the software would even allow for uninstallation given what it is designed to do (censorship) and where it is designed to do it (on PCs in China). If Green Dam does allow for uninstallation, this is the first thing any responsible PC owner in China who gives a damn about his/her freedom will do.  I personally build my own PCs when I can, and start with a clean hard drive when I can’t. It would honestly surprise me if neither is an option in China.