Symantec plays sleazy to woo the Great Cybernanny of China

Money makes the world go ’round, and right now the fastest and quickest road to make more of it leads to China (or at least that’s what everyone wants to believe).

But of course, China isn’t like those other places where big US companies do business; there’s often a price to be paid for cashing in. (We saw this phenomenon in living color not too long ago when Lucent executives were caught paying bribes to CCP officials. (I can’t condemn that — it simply has to be done and any company setting up shop in China that says they don’t do it, too, is lying.)

Now it’s Symantec’s turn to be in the spotlight. The maker of Norton Utilities and an array of firewall and anti-virus software made a really bad business decision, and CEO John Thompson is going to have some explaining to do.

Symantec has become the latest company to fall afoul of the Chinese ethical minefield. The Cupertino, California-based company found itself in hot water this week: its antivirus software declared a program called Freegate to be a Trojan Horse. In fact, Freegate is a legitimate program that lets Chinese users bypass the government’s Web censorship.

Experts and commentators immediately began to challenge Symantec’s real motives and point out that Freegate does not qualify as malware. Symantec quickly corrected its “mistake”: could it be that the gains from currying favour with the Chinese authorities wouldn’t offset the long-term costs of the publicity backlash at home?

The same article cites Intel’s embarrassment when reporters asked about its courting of Chinese officials. But that’s a far cry from what Symantec did, which was to actively and knowingly aid and abet the Great Firewall of China. That was a very bad decision, and it underscores just how greedy corporations can be when they get those Chinese dollar signs in their eyes.

The Discussion: One Comment

Incidentally, this isn’t the only program that the company has had problems with, they are being/about to be sued by a US dial up company whose applet was blocked, loosing them a lot of business.

This could be a genuine problem, not censorship.

September 17, 2004 @ 11:39 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.