Is Google Evil?

by Preston Gralla

When Google went public a year ago, it famously said in the papers accompanying its offering that its motto would be "Don't do evil."



Here is a company, it publicly proclaimed, that will not only create great technology and deliver big profits to investors, but will do so with a sense of morality and fair play all too often missing from the business world.



How times have changed.



In fact, they've changed so much that a headline in the New York Times shouts " Relax, Bill Gates; It's Google's Turn as the Villain." The article cites a widespread feeling throughout Silicon Valley and beyond that Google has gotten arrogant and in its pursuit of world domination has started to do serious harm to competitors and the technology landscape.



To a certain extent, the criticism goes along with the territory --- get too big and successful and the nay-sayers inevitably come out.



But there's also a disturbing truth at work here. Google has gotten arrogant, and the best example is a little-reported incident in mid-July. CNet ran an article warning that Google has amassed enormous amounts of private information about people. And to show how easily Google can be used to pry into people's private lives, it used Google searches to publish personal information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt, including his salary, neighborhood, his hobbies and his political donations.



Google was not amused, and promptly said it would refuse to talk to any CNet reporters for a year --- in essence blackballing CNet.



Imagine if Microsoft had done the same thing --- the outcry would be tremendous. But with Google, the act was met by silence, because of all the good will the company has generated.



There are other disturbing signs of arrogance as well. The Times article reported that Google fired am employee after he had joked in his blog that the on-site gym, free meals and other perks Google provides are only offered so that employees would work longer hours without complaining.



So it's clear that Google is guilty of arrogance and hubris. But has it crossed the line into evil? Let me know what you think, below.


Has Google become evil? Let me know what you think.


14 Comments

AgentV
2005-08-24 11:12:29
Not Evil Yet
...although the danger remains, Google hasn't turned evil yet.


The "evidence of the dark side" you cite in your article is really stretching the point.


I say that the things happening now are not a function of the corporation changing its stance. It's a function of a bulge in their workforce. I saw this same thing happen at Sun Microsystems.


At a certain threshhold of success, the workforce changes from a handful of really bright and committed people into the normal, mediocre, legion of middle level managers concerned primarily with protecting their own personal stake in the game. And in the space of that, stupid things start to happen.


So I say, "Not evil, just stupid in the middle." Here's the litmus test. Count the Vice Presidents. Unless it's a bank, having 200 or more VPs is a sign of malaise. (Everyone knows that in a bank, you get to be a VP after you've worked there six weeks.) When the number rises above the square of 12, you want to sell the stock, and save all of your content hosted on their servers.


---v

jwenting
2005-08-25 02:49:02
jury still out
Google are not necessarilly any more evil than any other company (or person).

But the license terms for their software and services show a disturbing trend for them to give themselves the leeway to collect any and all data about the user (effectively turning their products into extremely efficient spyware) while denying the user the option to prevent that (you'd be breaking your license to use the software by stopping your use and removing it, or at least you're giving Google the right to change the license to read thus when you sign up with them, while denying yourself the right to reject a license thusly changed).

I for one have decided long ago to not use any of their services. I never click on Googleads, I don't use their seearch engine, I reject all email from gmail addresses, and I'm not going to be suckered into downloading and installing their spyware (oops, Google desktop, Google Earth, and now their IM system).
msporleder
2005-08-25 06:15:44
Yes.
Google has been corrupted like the rest.
Tdot
2005-08-25 06:42:59
To be aware becomes more and more important
To label it evil wouldn't change much for me but reading articles at Google-watch.org makes you aware of Google's methods. It shows how Google collects user profiles and turns it into targeted advertising. The offers that show up on websites are not random at all but can eventuelly be extremelly tailored to personal interests so that it gets more likely you spend your money on things you don't really need except they are appealing to you.
DSmith
2005-08-25 11:52:05
Depends on your perspective
And given your background, I can understand why...


And that's just human nature... us against them... selective amnesia... selective stats...


When you cite Google firing an employee for the perks dig, one can easily cite MS doing the same to a contractor by showing pictures of G5s being unloaded in MS (http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2003/10/of_blogging_and.html).


And as history teaches us, all empires fall.


As software firms go, MS is sure having a good run at the top given the brittle nature of the technology they founded it on.

lwirbel
2005-08-25 12:00:50
Maybe Google Isn't, But Schmidt Is
Google founders, and many of its employees, may still be trying to apply the Hippocratic rule of "first do no harm," and to a large extent, they're successful. The problem lies with CEO Schmidt. Eric was a crybaby at Sun and hasn't changed much. It's interesting to note that a PR newsletter suggested that Google's internal PR counsel no doubt warned against this type of action, and the fault for continuing it lies largely in the office of the CEO. Sure rings true to me. If Google wants to continue to avoid evil, they need to dump Schmidt.
AgentV
2005-08-25 21:59:41
To be aware becomes more and more important
...that's one way to look at it.


Another is that there's something legitimate about being the conduit by which a company can get its message to the appropriate consumer.


So I would actually rather that the ads I see in my workspace are designed to be relevant to me rather than random. Why would I actually want random ads?


Given the amazing things that Google has provided me since it's been around, I applaud their approach to making money. They don't ask me for it, they only ask that I keep an open mind about the people who actually pay for the wonderful things made available to me.


Google has been very responsible about its approach to advertising actually. Someone with a Yahoo! email account for instance, will have recipients of their mail get advertising. So the person sending the mail doesn't get the advertising, someone they know gets it. Google only puts the ads in front of the person who (implicitly) has agreed to it.


I'm happy with what they've done. A few silly decisions from within the corporate structure doesn't render the entire endeavor evil. In my opinion.


---v


Vincent Lowe
Senior Education Consultant
Adept Minds

aristotle
2005-08-26 11:04:16
Re:
From someone who’s repeatedly been dismissive about anti-Microsoft sentiments, that seems surprising. What makes one corporation better or worse than the other?
DSmith
2005-08-26 13:14:59
Maybe Google Isn't, But Schmidt Is
Yep!


And if he does a "Ballmer Monkey Dance" (http://www.ntk.net/ballmer/mirrors.html), they better give him the boot!


Since that's one sure-fire way to loose the Google aura! :)


But seriously speaking, I do believe that Googlenauts see Google's Ten Things (http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/tenthings.html) as an article of faith and is not just something they put on a plaque in the lobby.


And have you read the WSJ interview with Schmidt


(http://users2.wsj.com/lmda/do/checkLogin?a=t&d=wsj&sd=users2&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2F0%2C%2CSB108051189603067300%2C00.html%3Femailf%3Dyes)

or have you seen the Charlie Rose interview with Brin and Page(http://www.charlierose.com/shop/showTapesbyguest.asp?intProdID=328), and on another occasion, with Schmidt?


They all openly mention that Eric was brought in as "to be the grown-up" in Google and even Eric admits that.


With Eric even recounting that the Google board gave him an explicit "don't screw this up now, Eric" warning when they put him in charge.


IMHO, the soul of Google is still largely "untarnished", and Schmidt is just the caretaker and he knows it.

zero11
2005-08-29 13:59:13
blah blah blah... the sky is orange... google is evil
Could somebody please pass me the crack pipe? I'd love to get a hit off whatever it is ya'll been smokin. There are multiple problems with the latest Google is evil crap people have been spewing lately. I'll confine myself to 3.


The first issue people seem to be upset about with google is that they are arrogant. Ya, so what? They rock, so if they are arrogant good for them. However it's important to note that this isn't a criticism of any value. It is a non-quantifiable apparition based on feeling. It can not be deomonstrated or refuted. It is a great propaganda tool, because people will repeat it and it will leave a bad taste in their mouth even if they don't know what it means. To make such an accusation is basically to say "I have nothing, so I'm going to levey a claim that can not be refuted because there is nothing in the claim to refute." Next person thay says this gets a boot to the head.


The second claim is that that Google is evil because they are hiring all the best talent in the Valley and driving up salaries. Oh excuse me, who is complaining about this? I sit in the middle of research facility filled with Computer Scientists and sys admins and I don't hear any of them complaining. Could it possibly be those silly CEO's and marketing goones who believe that talking endlessly make them as valuable as those who actually have the brains to do work? I tell you what, my 20 year old cousin who barely got out of high school and has no special skill set is earning 100K+ plus as an electical apprentice, while the guy down the hall with a PhD is earning 70K. Google realizes the most important asset of this century is information and the people who know how to work that information. Google feeds it's brain, while other companys neglect theirs and let all the food go straight the their fat *ss marketing departments.


Last is the one brought up here which is a slant on reasonable C|net article. OMG, Google has your personal information... what if they wanted to use it? HELLO, can you say Yahoo, Microsoft, Oracle, Lexus-Nexus, Equifax? The question of privacy invasion is a questinon of technology, not a question of Google. Got a Passport ID? Got a Yahoo account? Ever bought anything on Credit? If you want to call Google on this you need to call everybody on it. Easy access to all kinds of information is an issue, but it is neither an issue raised by Google nor and issue that destroying Google would resolve.


Let's see what is evil about a company that, grants money to students so they can get real world experiance programming on the project of their choice, opens API's to it's software, encourages people to hack their stuff instead of sueing them, and pushes the boundries of technology instead of ripping off other peoples ideas and making them incompatible with the orignial standard.



Say something that Google has done evil or stop talking non-sense.

Uberleet
2006-02-10 16:00:52
blah blah blah... the sky is orange... google is evil
You sir are a complete idiot.
Lloyd Eby
2006-04-20 19:38:31
See my article, "Google is Evil (And So Are Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems)," at:


http://www.wpherald.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20060413-094800-5293r

DarkBuster
2006-05-01 16:00:00
Both Evil and arrogant. And they're such a crybaby with big fat pockets... Just look at them complaining about the recent search box in the newest version of internet explorer. Now that they see millions of PC's will default to another search engine with the coming version of Vista they are worried. If instead they would have come up with some real innovations then it would be a different story. It's just a matter of time before they get killed by MS or some other startup. After all, they're just an advertising company.
Elie
2006-06-01 19:18:29
preinstalled google software on dell computers?
yeah thats evil.
anycompany that has an Internet Explorer toolbar is evil