‘Don’t be evil.’ That’s what Google’s Corporate Code of Conduct used to say until it was amended recently. Apparently it now says ‘Do the right thing.’ Is there a difference? Perhaps. Being evil is a more profound statement which permeates through everything that someone could do. It has an almost religious quality. The new slogan could simply refer to doing what is right by the company. Fleecing customers, supporting government subterfuge or stealing secrets may all be seen as the right thing to do. A lot depends upon where you stand.
I have always liked Google. Their ethos may have had something to do with it but their products are easy to use, readily accessible and I have run my business using their software ever since it started. For my own ethical reasons I pay them a monthly fee though I could have easily done this for free.
But now they are a massive conglomerate and, if you believe the press, do evil things. The development of their so-called Dragonfly product, a search engine designed for use in China where the users would be unaware of state censorship, is cited as a case in point. The product may well have been canned, possibly for legal reasons.
That’s the trouble with megacorps. They become too big and start to act with the impunity of a nation state. They are run by fat cat bastards who don’t give a damn about the little people who helped then to become what they are. Of course this is not true. As companies grow their needs and influences change. Their effect upon and therefore responsibility to society changes. Big companies have big impacts.
Several people I know have problems with Google, or Microsoft or Amazon. The list goes on and walking the tightrope of personal ethics is a difficult thing. Organisations are made of people and all people have good and evil inside them. Intent and reality may well differ.
The problem for me is that I have no practical alternative. All of the integrated office productivity products are built or owned by Americans and are shaped by their ideals and beliefs. Alternatives are needed in the market yet, due to the scale of investment, is unlikely to happen.
What I would like to see is a European, African or Asian alternative.
A Euogle anyone?