Thursday, January 26, 2006

Google and Corporate Citizenship

Corporate citizenship is an interesting phrase. It implies that a company should stand for something more then just making money for its shareholders.

Google needs to rethink where it stands on corporate citizenship. The other day it made two diametrically opposed decisions that indicates the company considers itself less a U.S. citizen and more of an international money hound. The company refused to give information to the U.S. government concerning what topics people were searching, not personal info just topical. Meanwhile it decided to adhere to a Chinese government request to limit what Chinese people can search for on the Internet.

Making mixed decisions is fine, but as CBS Marketwatch columnist Bambi Farncisco states today it flies in the face of the values the company publicly tries to follow.

To me these moves can lead the company down two distinct and negative, paths.

First it will become a hired gun willing to do whatever a government wants for the right price. From Google's reaction it seems the U.S. government's mistake was asking the company to give the info for free. (By the way all the other major search engines complied with the offer.)

The second is that by only delivering certain search items Google is skewing reality. If the Chinese government does not want its people to know that Americans elect their own government officials then in effect Google is lying to its customers. Withholding information is the same as lying.

Then what will happen to the company's credibility. Nobody will know if a Google search has been comprimised. Will Google withhold negative information about a company if that company is willing to pay enough money? Sort of the opposite of what it now does with its advertising program.

I do not believe a corporation is responsible for bringing democracy to another nation, but it should not corrupt its own and its home countries values just to make a buck.


At 11:28 AM, Blogger Greg said...

The best thing is Google's motto "Don't be Evil."

Right. How about - let's turn a buck.

At 11:16 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Many people use online blogs to express more than just personal opinions. I searched for other blogs containing the words citizen and citizenship, and I read three of the results. The third blog that I read was entitled Google and Corporate-citizenship. This blog seemed to me to be the best of the three, because it spoke of a citizen related issue, gave opinion on the issue, and gave reason for that opinion.

The issue mentioned in the third blog was about corporate citizenship, and more specifically, Google's corporate citizenship (as clearly stated in the title). The issue dealt with Google's decision to withhold random lists of searched topics by consumers from the U.S. government, but censoring the information that Chinese consumers can search for the Chinese government.

When this issue is compared to my working definition of a citizen, the key component that applies is duty. The author of the third blog claims that as an American company, Google should uphold it's citizenly duty in keeping with American values. I believe this extends my former definition of a citizen, making an American citizen one who also has a standard of ethics to live up to.


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