It was a rallying cry that every twenty-something in the tech world could rally around “Don’t Be Evil” – the unofficial slogan of internet sensation Google. In fact many of us did rally behind Google, it was the antithesis of Microsoft, more open than Apple – home spun and loved by all. This quickly made Google a success with billions in dollars and lead to a search monopoly and we are soon to see that it probably does have a email (gmail) and mapping monopoly as well.
The past two years has really told a different story though. Street view came out and we all loved it, still do. Then we found out that Google was sniffing Wi-Fi data and storing it. Tsk tsk many of us said, as we brushed the event under the carpet. Regulators and governments were pissed, but the end user seemed not to care. Yet in this instance Google broke its own motto, Section 4 and 7 were broken – they failed to preserve confidentiality and obey the law.
We kept loving Google though, they were after all still Google and costing us nothing – we can’t imagine a world without Google Search and Gmail. Don’t forget about this little thing though:
We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to >information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in >agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that “we will carefully monitor >conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine >that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our >approach to China.”
So Google was censoring search results in order to obey the Chinese law, but in the end that was not respecting their guideline of “Serve Our users” in Google’s motto. So they decided to change it (after 4 years) and remove the censorship. Naturally this broke Chinese law and now Google has made a work around where the search is not censored and no laws are broken. This however should have never happened if Google followed its motto, this should have been done from day one in China. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but Google clearly broke its motto in this instance.
And now of course comes the hot topic of the week, the Verizon and Google proposal on Net Neutrality to the FCC and Congress. Google had long taken the stance that the 100% supported Net Neutrality, something that every techie breathed a sigh of relief by. Now though it seems they only support convenient net Neutrality. (Read about all this crap, here, here, here, here and here.) The gist of all this being that Google is screwing over the users of the Internet – which our their users, thus breaking their code of conduct once again.
So What the Hell Happened to “Don’t Be Evil”?
This answer is way more simplistic than most would think: investors happened. Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that you can do whatever the hell you want to do when you are the primary investor, but once you take someone else’s money you have to start listening to them, and things change. Google is a for profit company, they need to make money to satisfy the stock price and to continue to grow. Don’t be Evil is an idealistic slogan that was started by two guys that are clearly no longer in control of the company they started.
Google started sniffing WiFi data to see what they could learn and to see what they could monetize off of it. They censored search in China to gain access to a billion new potential users, that would in turn hopefully click on Google’s ads. They are turning against Net Neutrality to satisfy and business partner in Verizon – which is key to Google’s mobile OS strategy. Every single action that Google has taken to date that violates their motto is a direct result of a company trying to increase profits.
Profits are not Bad
Profits by themselves are a great thing, and no one can fault Google for trying to be more profitable – that is the end game of any company. Google is however at fault for not following their own code of conduct – their self imposed rules of governance. Google is evil right now, not because they seek more profits, but because they are doing so while ignoring the edict that they stated at the outset.
Time to change your code of conduct, or change your conduct Google.