Many Internet users in the past few months are asking themselves, "Can I use Gmail in China?". This is because Gmail is not officially blocked in China, but it's not at all that accessible in China either. Google and China have had a rocky relationship for a while now, and in the past few months their relationship has seemingly grown worse. Gmail members are reporting that Gmail is blocked in various parts of the country, while other are still saying that they're not having any problems at all.
Since 2010 users from around the world have been getting a bright red pop up message saying that their account has been accessed from China. Google began warning users that the Chinese government was actively hacking into Gmail accounts and searching for activists information as well as other private information. This started after the Chinese government learned that members of the Jasmine Revolution and other anti-communist groups were using Gmail to communicate.
If users outside China are being hacked by the Chinese government, where does that leave users located inside the country? The question of, "Can I use Gmail in China?" becomes more of, "Do I want to?" Most of the time, none of us really have anything much to say in our emails. And sure, being in China, we'll mention it to friends and family back home. But are our passwords, usernames, and data safe while in the country? Now the Government is looking for specific activists but what happens when they decide to crack down? Yahoo is starting to look pretty good.
So many Gmail users in China are starting to use Virtual Private Networks. This is piece of technology that keeps your private data safe by encryption your data, re-routing to an overseas VPN server, and then sending it to the site you requested. This means that you computer becomes virtually invisible, even to your ISP (which is definitely going to play by the government rules here). With a VPN users are also able to unblock sites like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and now more that ever, a VPN is needed to use Gmail in China. Though accessing these sites is a big plus, VPN's are most important for keeping big brothers eyes off your back.
The Chinese government knows this, and despite the fact that the government's official policy is to all "legitimate VPN services", this is a very vague statement and in the end, they can do as they please. In March of 2011, PPTP and L2TP VPN protocols were blocked after the "Twitter Revolution" in Egypt which made it almost impossible for mobile devices to use VPN's. Though laptops and desktops as well as other devices that can use the SSL VPN protocol are still able to connect to a VPN server, you can be sure the they're working on blocking these too. It's begriming to look like if Google doesn't come to some sort of agreement with China in the near future, without a VPN in China you simply won't be able to use Gmail at all.
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