Questioned about privacy laws and censorship, search engine providers can indeed give out weird messages. This became clear after an inquiry to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo about their search politics relating to China. All of these search engine providers have separate search engines for display and use in China which respect the local legal framework. However, this framework demands both censorship and reports on who searched what. People searching for keywords such as «democracy» are to be turned in by the search engine provider.
Inquired about China, Google hands out a lenghty document typed up personally which explains that business pressure demands Google to operate in China. However, Google would not be allowed in China unless they implement the legal framework. The situation is called unsatisfactory, and a solution is said to be seeked but has to take place on an international, political level.
Also, Google says that the request to turn in people searching for certain keywords is not binding, and thus Google does not implement it.
Yahoo chose not to respond at all to inquiries related to China.
Questioned about China, Microsoft returned a prepared letter endorsing censorship as a perfect tool to keeping undesirable content away from the users. According to Microsoft, one should also look at the positive side of censorship. However, just like Google, Microsoft does not turn in users based on search requests.
It appears that Google is the only company which really has some kind of sense of corporate responsibility on the subject of censorship. It is however a fact that Google still plays with the dragons in this game, and hopefully Google will participate in any effort to clear up this issue in the future. The most unacceptable answer was probably that of Microsoft. Censorship is not acceptable under any circumstances, especially since it is not appropriate for any enterprise to decide on what a customer is willing to look at or not, for whatever reasons.