CNN has an article on how business for Virtual Private Network (VPN) software companies is booming these days, thanks largely to China and Iran. The article is entitled, “Cashing in on Internet Censorship,” and it discusses how foreign companies are profiting from software that allows circumvention of government internet controls.
The article quotes co-blogger Steve Dickinson as saying those businesses offering up their firewall avoidance software in China are violating Chinese law: “Steve Dickinson, a China-based lawyer with Harris Bricken, an international business law firm, said that companies supplying VPN products in China are technically breaking Chinese law.” But then Steve points out how this hardly matters because those doing the violating are not in China:
“China has no jurisdiction over such persons. As long as they do not physically enter China, there is no risk,” he said in an email to CNN.
Completely true and more relevant than people realize.
There are a number of internet businesses that are legal in their company of operation but illegal in one or more countries in which they are actually doing business. I know that many years ago, there were internet businesses selling medications from countries in which a prescription was not required into countries (like the United States) where a prescription was required. The US government then tricked some of the people behind these companies to come to the United States, where they were arrested. Not saying the same thing is going to happen with respect to people at the companies selling illegally into China over the internet, but it might. Let’s just say that if I were the president of one of these VPN companies, I would at least think long and hard before going to China. And if I were super paranoid, I might even want to know which countries might or might not extradite me to China.
While on this subject, I just read a very interesting post, entitled, “What If….” over at the China Outsider blog. The what if is Google offering and widely publicizing a free VPN. I would love for the technologically savvy to read that post and answer some of the questions posed there. Am I wrong in believing it would be relatively easy for China to block access to such a network, without really impacting anything much else?