Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto is one of the legendary phrases of tech history, but plenty of theories and information have come to light in recent years that appear contrary to the very principle. The infamous interview with Eric Schmidt where he declared, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” is burned in the minds of privacy advocates opposed to Google’s growing grasp on information.
Recent anti-trust lawsuits are only highlighting the very dominant nature of Google’s grip on the Internet as a whole. You can hardly find a person these days who doesn’t use Google services. If they don’t, it’s often because they’ve made it a point not to. Google is one of the few companies that can boast its name being used as a verb as much as a noun. You don’t Bing something. You Google it.
To me, the more disturbing quote from Schmidt was, “If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use artificial intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go.” That’s a pretty scary thought. A company with the ability to predict where you’re going to go later that day? In many ways, Google knows more about us than we do ourselves. With our search history alone, it remembers our thoughts and interests much more accurately than our own minds do.
But does it really matter? People will continue to use Google’s services regardless of their feelings towards the company. Why? Because it works and there aren’t any real competitors out there capable of offering as much convenient access to information.
We live in an age where we willingly post everything about ourselves online. Is Google really that bad?
Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are favorite hot spots for sharing your daily activities, thoughts, and the goings on of yourself and your friends. Even if you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, there’s a good chance someone you know has posted something about you online. It happens every day, and the Internet is happy to host this information whether you like it or not.
You might even be in a YouTube video someone filmed at a location where you just happened to be one day. If you trip and fall in public, there’s bound to be someone nearby with an itchy trigger finger on a smartphone ready to record the incident for posterity… and views.
Is Google really evil for providing platforms on which we share this information? Does Google owe anyone an added level of privacy on a service it makes freely available to anyone and everyone with an Internet connection?
Let’s take a look at some facts that we need to come to terms with.
- Google makes its money primarily from advertising.
- Advertising on Google is effective because these ads are generally targeted to the individual.
- Chances are, you frequent a site that is funded by advertising provided by Google’s AdSense service.
- The main reason Google invested in social networks (like Google+) and data sharing sites (like YouTube) is to better target ads to its users.
- Your Gmail account is being accessed by Google in order to push ads to you that it feels are relevant based on your conversations.
- Google is a multinational corporation with shareholders that demand high profits. It isn’t a charity organization that provides free tools simply because it’s feeling generous.
Looking at that, it’s easy to see Google as a bit of a dominant entity. Many people consider advertising to be the bane of the Internet, and Google is the largest advertising company in the world.
Here are some of the things Google does that, though they do come from a position of data collection, provide a useful service to users.
- Google Docs makes advanced document editing easier for users on a budget.
- Google Chrome is one of the fastest and most trusted browsers on the Web.
- YouTube is the largest free video sharing service in the world. It has played a key role in a number of major world events in the past few years including Arab Spring.
- Google+ has allowed YouTube channel owners to better connect with their audience. It’s currently the biggest competitor to Facebook outside of Twitter.
- Android is presently the world’s most popular mobile operating system.
- Google’s many open library and open source initiatives make free access to valuable information available to the world at no cost.
- Google Search changed the way the world accessed information. Previous search engines were good, but Google quickly established the largest single catalog of online content and information the world has ever known.
Is Google too powerful? Perhaps.
Is Google evil? No more than any other multinational corporation that makes its money from advertising.
Does it matter? According to the numbers, not really. People will continue to use services that they feel are useful and productive. Google’s vast array of online services and software projects are inexpensive, easily accessible, and almost always cross-platform. There are few (if any) companies that could boast having their hands in as many software industries as Google does.
What do you think?