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Does Google Deserve To Be Labeled Evil?

Google may be bringing on bad PR by simply having “Do No Evil” as a policy

By Chris Crum

Is it just me or does Google seem to be getting a lot of negative press lately? There seem to be an irregular amount of stories about Google and whether or not it’s “evil” making the rounds. There is even a Facebook page named, “Google is Evil“!

Do you think accusations that Google is evil are justified? Let us know what you think.

Also read: Developers Prefer Google Over Facebook… Do You?

First, let’s look at what Google actually says. Here’s the company’s code of conduct. The part about evil says:

“Don’t be evil.” Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But “Don’t be evil” is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally — following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect.

The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put “Don’t be evil” into practice. It’s built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar that high for practical as well as aspirational reasons: Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, who then build great products, which in turn attract loyal users. Trust and mutual respect among employees and users are the foundation of our success, and they are something we need to earn every day.

The document takes the reader through the following sections: Serve Our Users, Respect Each Other, Avoid Conflicts of Interest, Preserve Confidentiality, Protect Google’s Assets, Ensure Financial Integrity and Responsibility, and Obey the Law.

The whole thing ends with the following line:

And remember . . . don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up!

It seems like that part about trust might be the biggest area of concern, considering all of the talk out there on the newswires, the blogosphere, and the social networks.

Gizmodo has an article called “The Case Against Google“. This is mainly about privacy, how people “don’t trust Google with their data,” which is “new”.

“Many of us have entered into a contract with the ur search company because its claims to be a good actor inspired our trust,” writes the article’s author, Mat Honan. “Google has always claimed to put the interests of the user first. It’s worth questioning whether or not that’s still the case. Has Google reached a point where it must be evil?”

The article goes on to proclaim that “search is dying,” basically implying that “Search Plus Your World” is making people not want to use Google search anymore. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s got it’s issues, and that Google’s results could be a lot better these days, but there’s no way SPYW is killing Google search. Sorry. It’s just not. For all of the media outcry about it, I don’t know anybody in my personal life that has stopped using Google to search the web because of it. Most people just don’t care that much.

Google’s “Search Plus Your World,” which is essentially the integration of Google+ (with some other things sprinkled in) into search results, is no doubt driven by that ad revenue addiction in the end. The better Google+ does, the more Facebook-like data Google can get about you, and potentially use to help advertisers better target consumers. Some may find that evil, advertising is how Google makes its money, which allows Google to do more things. Google is a business. It’s not a charity, though it does have some particularly un-evil charitable initiatives.

Danny Sullivan, who spends much of his time specifically writing about Google and the search industry, even told the New York Times recently, “I don’t think they were ever not evil,” though he did go out of his way to put that into greater context in his own article. He references another quote he gave the NYT: “They are a big company, and any big company is always going to have something happen that they don’t expect. But these things keep happening where you can’t even trust their word.”

“It pains me to say it, when I know so many people at Google truly and honestly mean for their company to be doing good things, to be trusted,” he adds in his own article. “It also pains me when I know Google has done many good things for the web as a whole. The fact that sites don’t have to pay just for the chance to be showing up in ‘free’ listings in search engines is largely down to the force of Google.”

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