Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil,” which may be the most complete description of its goal in the world. As the company continues to expand and challenge television companies and high power tech companies like Apple, that motto is increasingly important in analyzing just how Google sees the world. It is rumored that the creator of Chrome and Gmail might be in the market for a music streaming service. Google may also be looking at creating a system to control a home’s utilities, like heating and air, all from the comfort of anywhere a wi-fi signal exists. Beyond rumors, however, the web giant is participating in the World Cup, one of the world’s biggest sporting events, and is even trying to make the popular Doodle’s more diverse. Unlike many companies, Google really does seem to be trying to avoid evil, but will it stay that way?
In trying to answer that question, it is helpful to look at what the company is actually doing. Worldwide, it has shown that it is aware of its internationality. With offices in more than 40 countries, it is a true corporate citizen of the world. As such, it has found a way to participate in the biggest sporting event in the world: the 2014 World Cup. The world Cup is being hosted in Brazil this year, and for those people who cannot afford to attend, Google has made it possible for people to explore the stadiums through its Street View. While fans watch the games at two in the morning to cheer their team on, they can also explore the stadium their team is playing in and become as well acquainted with the grass on the ground as the players themselves are. In that respect, it is allowing people to see more of the world than they could without it.
In the United States, Google’s “don’t be evil” motto has led it to clash with the government, particularly over the National Security Agency’s surveillance of American citizens. The company behind Gmail will soon offer an extension for its Chrome web browser that encrypts users’ emails and protects them from surveillance. This move is a response to the growing furor in the United States over the NSA’s activities and the discovery of how it was acquiring data from its front end servers. As if that was not enough, Google also left what is called an Easter Egg in the coding for its encryption service. One line of code has the word’s “SSL added and removed here! :-)” which is a quote from a sketch the NSA made of its data acquisition process. Google is not only doing what it can to protect its users, it is also letting the government know that it will not let them be evil on its watch.
Culturally, the company is also policing itself and making sure it is representative of all its users. The issue of diversity in the charming Google Doodles came up in a March report that found that they disproportionately represented white males. Of the doodles between the years 2010 and 2013, 62 percent were white men. Of the rest, 17 percent were women and only four percent were women of color. Overall, this is not a very representative statistic. But when the report was made in March, Google had already fixed the problem. In fact, it had been aware of the problem long before the report was ever made. Diversity was a subject that the team that creates the doodles had been discussing for quite awhile and had decided to be more representative in 2014. As a company that is truly worldwide, it is important to Google to be as representative of its users as possible and has shown that is sees the world how its users see the world, which is as full of diversity as possible.
That does not mean, however, that there is not the potential for evil with all the innovation and projects that it is involved in. Fundamentally, Google is a business and the goal of business is to make money. It is rumored that the company is in the market to acquire a music streaming service, much in the same way its rival Apple acquired Beats by Dr. Dre. It wants to stay competitive with Apple, so it could possibly look to buy Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Rhapsody, or any of the other music streaming services out there. Knowing Google, the move they do make will be something nobody really expects. Depending on what they do, however, artists could suffer. Musicians and bands already do not make much money from streaming music, which is becoming the dominant way people consume their music. If the company contributes to that kind of taking advantage of talent, does that qualify as evil?
It should also be acknowledged that Google is one of the biggest technology companies in the world and it controls a lot of technological capital. Apple has had to distance itself from its competitor recently in order to achieve its dream of completely controlling user experience. Apple is famous for not playing well with others. Its software and hardware are rarely set up to be compatible with non-Apple apps or devices. This strategy is meant to ensure the best experience for users, but it also has the effect of keeping competition out. Still, there are still things it outsources to Google, like the search engine. They may be the best at searching the web, but Apple has made Windows’ Bing its primary search engine. Since the two companies are in competition with each other, could the gigantic company use its monopoly on certain aspects of the web in order to sabotage Apple’s efforts?
Doing so may be considered good business by the more unscrupulous operators, but for now Google seems content to continue to try not to be evil and just do everything its competitor does except better. Apple is moving towards controlling its users’ homes with a project called HomeKit. The idea is to let people control their houses with their iPhones. Google may not have officially announced its intention to provide the same service, but it has acquired a company that makes thermostats and fire alarms. There is little doubt that eventually it will have its own version of HomeKit and possibly even a better version.
Whether people are aware of it or not, Google is in everything and will someday even be in people’s homes. Already it controls information via search results, phones with the Android operating system, and is even going up against the government over surveillance. It is one of the primary competitors with Apple and it is continuing to keep up with the fruit-named company in all things. It is also a part of world culture with its involvement in events like the World Cup and its self-aware concern over its own diversity. Everything Google does is part of how it sees the world and its motto, “Don’t be evil.” Whether or not things will always be that way will have to be shown over time.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury