Friday, September 26, 2008

Don't Be Evil

In the modern world, corporations are everywhere. Real competition is increasingly scarce, with great conglomerates controlling whole industries. Where there is competition, it is usually only between a hand-full of giants. Broadcast media is a good example, with AOL Time Warner and Viacom controlling much of the traditional media people interact with. One of the newest of these omnipresent corporations is Google.

Google came to prominence as an internet search engine, but has since expanded to consume other areas of people’s lives by offering services such as e-mail, and document management. Through Picasa and Youtube, Google also has a hand in video and photo sharing. But Google’s reach does not, and will not, end there. With the launch of Google’s Chrome web browser, and Android, their operating system for smart phones, Google is edging their way into the daily lives of people around the world. They pledge to organize all of the world’s data, as can be observed through their Book, and Earth Services, and their initiative to scan old newspapers for purposes of posterity.

So is Google’s omnipresence positive or negative? It is clear that Google has already done a great deal for increasing the availability of information. In this regard, they have already improved our lives by controlling the presentation of the world’s data. But when one entity is given such power it should be a cause for concern. Google’s unofficial motto is “Don’t Be Evil”, but there are already privacy concerns being voiced over what rights Google has over the use of collected data and how long it can be retained. Google is also being ridiculed for censoring web content in China in cooperation with the Chinese government.

When it comes to the Chinese censorship issue, Google’s motto has shifted more towards “Do the Lesser Evil”. Google concluded that it would be better to give the Chinese some access to their search tools, even if the access was limited. As the company continues to grow, we can only hope that Google chooses to follow its original mantra, while refraining from falling victim to the culture of neglect we’ve come to expect from corporations. A collapse of core values could mean trouble, giving them a poor public image such as that which Microsoft has gained. As Google gains increasing levels of power throughout the world they should be reminded, “Don’t Be Evil”.

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