Is it possible that Google still means it — that it really means to “do not evil”?
As Google faces off with China’s tyrants, the Soviet-era childhood of co-founder Sergey Brin is a factor, reports the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) :
As a boy growing up in the Soviet Union, Sergey Brin witnessed the consequences of censorship. Now the Google Inc. co-founder is drawing on that experience in shaping the company’s showdown with the Chinese government.
Mr. Brin has long been Google’s moral compass on China-related issues, say people familiar with the matter. He expressed the greatest concern among decision makers, they say, about the compromises Google made when it launched its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn, in 2006. He is now the guiding force behind Google’s decision to stop filtering search results in China, say people familiar with the decision.
Google acknowledged that the call to stop filtering — which was announced in January and set off negotiations with Beijing — could lead to its withdrawal from the fast-growing market. …
A Silicon Valley executive who knows Mr. Brin said his Soviet upbringing made him particularly opposed to state use of technology to spy on citizens. This person suspects that the apparent attempts to spy on Gmail users may have been as important in Google’s reaction as the issue of censorship. “That tripped Sergey,” this person said.