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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

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Does Google Deserve To Be Labeled Evil?
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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.”

Matthew Stenslaand-Bos at SF Bay says Google has gotten “big for its britches.” He writes:

The laundry list of the company’s violations and missteps has only grown in recent years, and you can find one for almost every area of interest. Regarding social networking, Google was caught rigging their search results to display items from their sources — Google+, for example — before those of their competitors, like Twitter and Facebook. So much fair and unbiased search.

Last year, Google was caught hosting ads from online Canadian pharmacies that led to illegal importation of prescription drugs. Google was forced to forfeit $500 million — a little slap on the wrist. But it was in the area of privacy that the company seems to have really blown it.

That part about privacy is about the new consolidated policy that we’ve discussed numerous times, which personally, I think has been way out of proportion.

Ryan Tate at Gawker has a piece about former CEO (and current Executive Chairman) Eric Schmidt “calling on programmers, like those at Google, to speak out against any evil practices their bosses ask them to perform”. The piece references one from the Cal Alumni Association at UC Berkley, which awarded Schmidt Alumnus of the Year. The following quote from Schmidt is highlighted:

“Scientists from Berkeley spoke out on the dangers of nuclear war, on atomic proliferation and things like this. And it was the scientists that got people concerned. It was the scientists who spoke out to make the world a better place. And that’s a responsibility that I think I and others have.”

Rob Enderle at TGDaily has an article called “Google vs. Microsoft: The hero becomes the villain“. Is Google the villain now?

“Truthfully, the idea for writing this article was prompted by a conversation I had this morning about Stanford University. Specifically, we were discussing how the students have noticeably shifted alliances dramatically over the last decade,” Enderle writes. “A scant ten year ago they hated Microsoft and Google was the White Knight, yet it is truly amazing how those positions have reversed today.”

He talks about how ads at Google were initially perceived as “little more than a necessary evil to generate money and fund the firm,” adding, “The most fascinating aspect of all this? The apparent internal dislike for ads as something ‘unclean.’ Yet, the now conflicted company appears focused (perhaps a better word would be addicted) on the revenue the ads generate.”

Ads are still Google’s main driver of revenue, so it is still the majority of Google’s funding. Doesn’t it make sense that Google would want to be “addicted” to the thing that is not only driving its business, but funding for innovation and more ambitious projects. You know they have self-driving cars, right? Did you know these cars are even inspiring state legislation?

Ads are only part of Enderle’s story, as he goes into operating strategy, mostly as a comparison to Microsoft’s strategy, and the much-publicized privacy issues with Safari.

In a PCWorld article, Enderle (again) asks if Google is “facing the beginning of the end.” This was in response to that much-talked about post from the former Google engineer James Whittaker, who said, “The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.”

In the PCWorld article, Enderle does raise an interesting point: “Google should have worked to line up Microsoft and Facebook as partners, not competitors.” I’m not sure if it’s the right point, but it’s an interesting scenario to consider.

That’s just a few brief glimpses of some of the articles out there. There are plenty of stories currently in Google News about Google and evil.

You might say Google brought this kind of discussion on itself, by simply making that “Don’t Be Evil” mantra a part of its code in the first place. Google has certainly grown a whole lot since that was created, but it does remain part of the company’s philosophy to this day, whether you think they’re honoring it or not. It may be the very fact that this is such a well-known part of the company’s founding and existence, which sparks a much heftier amount of criticism and stories with the words “Google” and “Evil” in the title together that other companies are immune to. It makes for catchy headlines, for sure.

It’s interesting that not a lot of the articles out there (at least the ones calling the company evil) are about how Google is changing the way it delivers its search results, which could greatly impact the traffic it sends to other sites. Given all the hoopla around the Panda update for the past year or so, which saw some companies having to layoff employees, it’s a bit surprising that there isn’t more focus on this part of the discussion in the more mainstream news. Google is increasingly finding ways to keep people on its own properties longer (which means less time on sites like yours). To be clear, I don’t think this is necessarily “evil” either, but it’s certainly significant to doing business on the web.

Is Google really evil? More evil than its peers (like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc.)? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Does Google Deserve To Be Labeled Evil?
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  • Thomas

    Yes, Google is evil. In contrast to what they say about their values,
    - they directly finance crime (copyright violation) with paid ads and even with membership fees being paid through Google Checkout. And they don´t care when they get a hint about it. The more, the better.
    - they don´t respect copyright themselves, like when they published books without permission from the authors.
    - their way to collect and store data of users is illegal in many countries. They do not care.

  • Kate Lennon

    Google is in business to make money, just like every other corporation.
    And Google makes its money by being the middleman between people offering services, and people searching for these services. No different, in principle, to a newspaper sellinng classified ads. In the beginning, at least.
    The problem is that Google became too powerful, to the extent that website owners had no choice but to obey Google’s rules and guidelines if they wanted to stay in business.
    In theory, of course, they could use the services of other search engines, such as Yahoo. But in reality, Google’s grip on the web is now so extensive and all-pervasive that relying on other search engines is not viable. Here in Europe, Google has 85% of the search market.
    This has put Google into a position where it can – and does – dictate almost every aspect of online commerce. Websites have to be optimized for Google. Verified by Google. Approved by Google. Companies are dependent on their Google listing, and their search results positioning, to stay in business. If your website disappears from Google’s search results, you’ve had it. You’re out of business, or at least in big trouble.
    Google’s power is coercive. In effect, they CONTROL THE WEB, and, of course, they control it in their own interest, and for their own ends (ie, bigger profits).
    If Google doesn’t “like” my website, Google can and will make it disappear. All website owners are in the position of peasants who live in constant dread of having their head chopped off by the king. And in order to prevent that from happening, they have to appease him and pander to his whims without question.
    Everyone agrees that the king is a great man, but nobody in the kingdom wants to get on the wrong side of him.
    So Google scrutinizes my website every few days to make sure I’m obeying the rules. I get brownie points for having a fast download time, interesting content, a terms and conditions link, a Google Plus link. I get penalized – maybe even banished from the kingdom – if I have duplicate content on my site, or if Google decides that I’m selling links (only Google is allowed to do that).
    But here’s the thing: no matter what goods or services I’m selling on my website, Google is competing with me for customers! The illusion is that Google is helping me by including me in its search results. But if Google’s search results were random, or at least only determined by search relevance, my site would appear anyway. But in fact Google DEMOTES my website in order to PROMOTE sites that are prepared to bribe it for search engine placement. “Sponsored listings” sounds reasonable until you think about what it really means. And what it really means is that Google is entering into a business relationship with your competitors to reroute your customers and take away your profits. Unless, of course, you are willing to pay Google MORE than your competitor.
    Is this evil? It depends on what you mean by evil. The executives at Google are doing what they’re paid to do, which is to maximize profits.
    Are they doing website owners any favours? Absolutely not. Google is gobbling up most of the available online revenue, and throwing a few crumbs to the people who depend on it.
    Is Google living up to its “Don’t be evil” motto in the higher, moral sense? Hardly. It agreed to censor its search results in order to get a slice of the lucrative Chinese market. Worse, it provided the authorities with the “private” information of pro democracy activists. These people are now languishing in jail thanks to Google’s decision to put profit before principle.

    • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

      Kate, well written and well said!

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      “had no choice but to obey Google’s rules and guidelines”

      So, what exactly is so bad about those ‘rules and guidelines’?

      Isn’t one of the basic tenets of their guidelines the concept that web sites should be made for human visitors and not bots?

      I read threads on various ‘SEO’ sites and forums and it is almost hilarious how complicated people try to make things trying to second, third and fourth guess what seems pretty straight forward in the first place.

      I created a number of web sites before ever reading Google’s Webmaster Guidelines not caring much about search engines at the time and created the web sites to be informative and useful to visitors. When I later compared them to the guidelines, there was a perfect fit, which probably explains why all my sites have done well in search results from the beginning.

      All I did was what Google tells other webmasters to do except I didn’t have the benefit of the webmaster guidelines when I started out.

      Use the tools Google gives you to use and you will do well. On the other hand one can spend the time one might have spent succeeding to instead spend one’s time venting one’s rage against the evil beast.

      Your choice.

  • http://www.creativeelectronics.co.za Wayne

    Why is it always the negative people on the planet that will think out how to destroy something that is good .GOOGLE IS GOOD AND NOT EVIL it is a search engine that help people to find each other .GOOGLE HAVE OUR SUPPORT

  • http://www.ebook-site.com Bryan

    Absolutely

  • http://luxeua.com Alex

    Eventually Google stopped cooperating with hotels.com and penalized them for spamming the index. Then we smaller operators returned to our former positions.

  • Alex

    Are u so dumb or am i so smart?

    The big G has become bad!

  • http://www.theinvitationdepot.com Wanda

    I depend on reliable search results for my business. My site has been on the internet for 6yrs, Google has penalized my site for the mere action of updating it. I am just trying to make an honest living here. My site gets Dropped from ALL of Googl’s search result pages, Every Year from the start of the “High season” i.e. when most couples are getting engaged, until the “Low season” begins, after it is too late to start looking for spring and summer wedding invitations. They provide no explanation to me why I have been dropped from ALL result pages. I have no idea what I did wrong or what I can do to get out of, what is called 950-ed. Coincidentally this also occurs shortly after refusing one of their sales rep’s to pay to be listed as pay-per-click, which I’d have to bid on then BUY keys…buy words?!?! Then, I would have to Pay Google .25 – .50 cents, depending on the words I “Bought”, every time someone clicks on my site (that may or may not be in a top position or 1st page, no matter how much I pay them, as it is a revolving system). With that, I would cringe when people do click on it. How many times have you just clicked on a site that was a search result,then,within seconds went back to the search results? My site received 2,143 visits in just one month – You do the math. That being said, I am aware that all search engines to have a Pay-Per-Click option. It just isn’t fair to owner operated business like mine, that are just trying to make ends meet. We are forced by All search engines to dish out far more money than we make in order to show up in a search result. Btw, the top of the list and first 2 pages are major companies, or sites that have thousands of solicited and paid for links..It’s just me, I don’t have a sales department like the leading sites do, and though my site has relevant content, I don’t show up because I don’t have thousands of sites linking to me, because I can’t afford to pay thousands of sites to link to me. I can’t afford thousands of links because I don’t show up on results therefor I don’t make money…It’s a vicious circle. But at the end of the day, it is the small business that is being crushed and forced out of business!!!

  • http://capeschancklightstation.com.au Mark Oliver

    Google has become very powerful and in someways that makes it impossible not to be evil, but I do not believe it is their intention to do bad. I think they could be far worse and for the most part they provide great products that have made my work easier.

  • Alex Johnson

    Yes, I think goole is 100% evil, because

    * Search marketer create site following google webmaster law not for user related.

    * Google say not Flash use in your site because google not crawl flash so today very few flash site available (google not change/update technology but web master change his/her site)

    * We Search in google but google instant change our thinking and provide their result

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    Mankind has ‘evolved’ into an “Im OK, You’re Not” rationalizing creature that seems to always need someone else to blame for one’s own shortcomings.

    It sucks to be me therefore someone must be to blame and since company X is the name I hear so often, it must be them.

    When Microsoft was more in the news, they were the evil giant, Apple, it doesn’t matter, people will always look no farther than they have to to find someone they can blame their failures on.

    Some do have valid concerns but too often those concerns get warped out of shape and applied to situations they have no connection to by the masses who rarely understand the concepts they are getting all upset over.

  • http://www.theinvitationdepot.com Wanda

    SO TRUE!!
    I depend on reliable search results for my business. My site has been on the internet for 6yrs, Google has penalized my site for the mere action of updating it. I am just trying to make an honest living here. My site gets Dropped from ALL of Googl’s search result pages, Every Year from the start of the “High season” i.e. when most couples are getting engaged, until the “Low season” begins, after it is too late to start looking for spring and summer wedding invitations,(btw, the top of the list and first 2 pages are major printing companies, or sites that have thousands of solicited and paid for links..It’s just me, I don’t have a sales department like the leading sites do) They provide no explanation to me why I have been dropped for result pages. I have no idea what I did wrong or what I can do to get out of, what is called 950-ed. Coincidentally this also occurs shortly after refusing one of their sales rep’s to pay to be listed as pay-per-click, which I’d have to bid on then BUY keys…buy words?!?! Then, I would have to Pay Google .25 – .50 cents, depending on the words I “Bought”, every time someone clicks on my site (that may or may not be in a top position or 1st page, no matter how much I pay them, as it is a revolving system). With that, I would cringe when people do click on it. How many times have you just clicked on a site that was a search result,then,within seconds went back to the search results? My site received 2,143 visits in just one month – You do the math.

  • http://www.theinvitationdepot.com Wanda

    Sorry, I commented on the wrong post.
    I don’t agree that Google is a CIA front, though Google does sell your information to the highest bidder, The Patriot Act allows our government to spy on our internet activity.

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