Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Do Some Evil?

Google has come under fire recently for its decision to offer up a censored version of its site in China. As everyone is probably aware, China is probably the most enticing market in the world for its sheer size, but also one of the most difficult to access. Many people in the west have lost fortunes trying to make one in China, dating all the way back to Marco Polo.

So here is Google, with it's "don't do evil" creed and it's asked by the Chinese to offer up scrubbed search results. Many in the US have come down on the company for this, saying that it's just wrong.

As for my take, a company needs to do what's right for the company, and each nation has its own rules. We may not agree with those rules, but you have to balance the decision to be in that market with the rules for working within it. Imagine being an oil company executive forced to do business with nations that have policies that churn the stomach. But you go where the oil is as a matter of business.

I actually wonder if the same people angry with Google have stopped using oil for the same reason. Good luck to you.

Anyway, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that they created a sort of evil scale:

"We concluded that although we weren't wild about the restrictions, it was even worse to not try to serve those users at all," Schmidt said. "We actually did an evil scale and decided not to serve at all was worse evil," he said, referring to the company's famous "don't be evil" creed.
This is the problem with flip statements like "don't be evil," as evil is relative. I just wonder what the scale looked like and wonder if they're starting to find the need for an ethics advisor at the board level.

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