“Don’t be evil”

Posted by CJD on January 29, 2013

That’s Google’s famous code of conduct statement, made by a couple of kids many years ago when their ideas were fresh and new and before they owned the internet.

It’s still there, explained on their website

“Don’t be evil.” Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. [……] But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally – following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect. […..]Trust and mutual respect among employees and users are the foundation of our success, and they are something we need to earn every day.[…..] And if you have a question or ever think that one of your fellow Googlers or the company as a whole may be falling short of our commitment, don’t be silent. We want – and need – to hear from you.
And so on.


I’ve always thought that as an ethical statement it only goes half the distance – I like my fridge magnet morality to do the rest of the work too. You know, “…..and do some good.”
But I generally don’t have much time for philosophical musings and when I heard the “Do no harm” epithet my first thought was too rude to print here and my second was – “that’s going to turn round and bite them in the backside one day.”

Well over the years Google’s had a few chunks taken out of it’s trousers – we’ve had the Great Firewall of China controversy, it’s accused of using it’s market power to push its competitors out of their listings and latterly it’s been their tax avoidance methods that have come under the microscope.

Today it’s being reported in various places that they’re going to add another evil to their list.

“Web giant Google could be subject to the UK’s largest ever group legal challenge, following claims the firm has been snooping on Apple users’ web browsing habits. The company has been accused of circumnavigating Apple’s security controls to monitor the online habits of Apple users, who access the web using the Safari browser.” [IT Pro]

They’ve already been successfully fined in the USA for $22.5m and the UK media law firm Olswang has now been appointed by a group of Apple users to do something similar here.

“Through its DoubleClick adverts, Google designed a code to circumvent privacy settings in order to deposit cookies on computers [and] provide user-targeted advertising,” said Olswang’s statement.

As is the nature of these things, there is now a Facebook campaign site for the 10 million or so Safari users in the UK who might have a claim.
Go on, do some evil.


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