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Yahoo Defends Obeying Chinese Law

Publication Date: 
August 28, 2007
Los Angeles Times
Dawn C. Chmielewski

Visiting Professor Jonathan Zittrain in a Los Angeles Times article about a lawsuit brought against Yahoo:

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, says companies have to walk a fine line when they operate under governments that do not wholly embrace the rule of law.

"If the government lodges a generic request for identifying data, it's awfully hard for the company to say, 'Why do you want this?' and then decide whether to answer," Zittrain said. "But this doesn't mean there aren't things companies can do."

For example, Zittrain says Yahoo could store the relevant data in a country that forbids its release under circumstances such as these -- or it could tell its users very clearly what data are collected and empower them to expunge it.

None of these approaches is a guarantee against abuse, he says, but they show how companies can minimize the risk that their activities will be used to support undesirable ends.