Run, don't walk, from China's Big Brother law

Web and cloud companies are especially targeted by a law that gives the government access to and control over user and business data

China's Big Brother law should make you rethink doing business there

China's National People's Congress has drafted a second version of a controversial cybersecurity law. It would bring a great deal of censorship for both foreign and domestic citizens and businesses, whether they use the cloud or not.

China is a wasteland for the modern internet. Websites like Facebook and Google are blocked. Moreover, web traffic is monitored and censored by the government. It's Big Brother for real.

The latest draft of the law aims to require any site operator, whether foreign or domestic, to comply with the "social morals" of China. Moreover, they must accept government censorship.

The effects of this law will go deeper than websites, however. According to Xinhua, China's state-operated news agency, the law requires all Chinese citizens' data and "important business data" to be stored in China. And if you want to do business in China, you must submit to a security audit to make sure you're compliant.

Under this proposed law -- which is very likely to become actual law -- the cost of doing business in China will go up tenfold for most public cloud providers. Although China is a huge market, the moral and economic costs of such a law are also huge, and they may cause Western companies to question the value of doing business in such a state.

In the U.S., we would push back on such Big Brother laws. Here, providers look out for the privacy of their customers more than the rights of the government to access data, let alone monitor it. We see that in Microsoft and Apple actively resisting U.S. government spying efforts.

Of course, Edward Snowden's revelations of the NSA's and other federal agencies' broad spying on citizens showed that some of this Big Brother monitoring is already happening here, even if more about catching terrorists and criminals than finding out if we're talking smack about government officials.

So, should a cloud or web provider do business in China in light of the new law? It's up to the provider, but, personally, I would have a problem with it. At the end of the day, we'll have to take a position on this Big Brother stuff. In my book, participation means agreement. And it's not something we should agree to.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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