Monday, April 13, 2009


The last post I wrote was about how Google might be the big bad wolf, and today I stumbled across another article by Rob Enderle on this very thing. I am sure these are not the only two articles to bring this to the fore, but since they were less than a week apart, I thought I could revisit the question.

This new discussion goes so far as to call Google evil, which seems quite extreme. It is also difficult to know exactly who and what the author's examples are using, which inhibits the reader's ability to make a complete decision.

I do have to say, however, that there are several good points that are made, and it has me thinking twice. It aptly makes use of the quote, "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." And it is true - it is hard to think of any company that might be as well-poised to cause massive harm than Google. After all, they are amassing more information in one place than any other company I can think of, and the fact that there have been scores of citizens outraged by google's actions in the past, that maybe we have good reason to take pause. But this alone is not enough to condemn them to being evil.

The article uses a few examples, that of Google's refusal to address the concerns of citizens with privacy concerns, and even a reference to an article in The New York Times on how Google raised the cost of infant care from 37K a year to 55K. This seemed shocking to me given all of the fanfare about what a great company Google is to work for, but alas the company did not reverse its decision, instead rolling back the price increase (which is substantially over market price) only moderately. And that was that. Enderle makes a good point - that money is eclipsing the widely-held belief and notion that Google cares a great deal about something bigger than money. But this seems to fly in the face of that image.

There is also the case of Google censoring information in China, and refusing to take down materials from its archives that is admittedly false and destructive towards individuals. Who knows what the real intentions of the company are? I am more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than assume they are evil given some isolated incidents, and after all, Google is run by people.

But the fact that the government is supposedly going to gmail, which in itself can be a terrifying thought, and a seemingly increased incidence of this behavior, maybe we do have something to worry about. The benefit that Google has bestowed upon society is certainly vast and important, and they deserve credit for that. But we should not lose sight of the fact that the tech industry is still run by people, and as much as I believe in the good of people, these execs are subject to the same temptations and pitfalls as you or I. We should remember that being innovative and smart does not change this fact.

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