Google Case Study: Is it Fair?

| 7/2/2012 2:09:03 PM

Google’s unofficial motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” could be expressed as easily in the positive, “Be Fair.” The premise to which the company’s founders refer frequently – the notion that information should be easily accessible and freely available – describes the essence of fairness. Google stresses its meritocratic culture. The company hires and promotes people on the basis of their capabilities rather than their background or experience. Again, the essence of fairness. 

Don’t Be Evil is actually only a translation of one small part of the official Google philosophy, which is summed up in 10 points on the company’s website: 

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
3. Fast is better than slow.
4. Democracy on the web works.
5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6. You can make money without doing evil.
7. There’s always more information out there.
8. The need for information crosses all borders.
9. You can be serious without a suit.
10. Great just isn’t good enough.

Fortune Most Admired Companies 2010 logoThe company is regularly recognized as one of the world’s best companies to work for, by Fortune magazine among others. Fortune has also named it one of the world’s “Most Admired Companies.” In Fortune’s 2010 list it was ranked second right behind Apple. 

Of course the company has its critics. In many parts of the world Google’s open access model is considered a vehicle for alien values: capitalism, liberalism, and immorality. Journalists believe some of the company’s practices violate their intellectual property rights by reproducing their work without paying for it. Media companies sometimes complain that the search program’s valuation of content devalues high-quality analysis and opinion in favor of the sensationalistic and the popular. 

And some of the information so highly valued by Google is information about individuals. The giant communications company is looking everywhere, all the time, for clues to make its searches, its maps, its photos and stories more relevant and useful. In the process it sometimes looks into people’s private lives. Most recently Google collected about 600 gigabytes worth of users’ emails, passwords and other “tidbits of information” from computers hooked up to wireless networks. When something like that happens, Google says it happens accidentally. As Google becomes more powerful, the concern that it might use its insights to exploit individuals becomes more troubling. 

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