Google: Going back to ‘Don’t Be Evil’?

Does Google's quarrel with China show that the web giant has rediscovered its guiding principles?

On the one hand, as Privacy International pointed out, Latitude is a handy tool for potential stalkers, prying employers and miscellaneous obsessives, and one that anyone with momentary access to your handset could engage.

Worse, as he UK's Children Charity Coalition for Internet Safety explained, Latitude made it all too easy for children to thoughtlessly reveal their real-time location to any of 2000 friends' on Facebook.

Needless to say, chief executive Eric Schmidt's widely publicised December comment that "if you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place" hasn't endeared him or Google to those who worry about the company's big brother potential.

Nor has the company's reported legal avoidance of 450 million of taxes helped its case in the UK. In terms of revenue, the UK is Google's largest market outside of the US, but by diverting revenues to a Northern Ireland subsidiary, Google could actually claim a 26 million pre-tax loss.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

The turnaround

This year, however, has given us a new, shiny, whiter-than-white Google, with its 12 January announcement of "a new approach to China" widely seen as a turning point.

Not only did Google publically accuse China of a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure", it also implicitly criticised Chinese policies over surveillance and human rights.

Tough talking Google threatened to review its business operations in China and if it deliver uncensored search results walk out.

The result? The company's best press for some time. "Four cheers forGoogle. Risking the loss of potentially huge long-term profits in the Chinese internet market, it has struck a blow for one of the great causes of our time: global information freedom" wrote columnist Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian.

Google china search

"When Google first launched a filtered search engine in China, EFF was one of the first to criticise it," said the EFF's Danny O'Brien. "We'd now like to be one of the first to commend Google for its brave and forthright declaration."

Advertisement - Article continues below

In the US House of Representatives, the speaker, Nancy Palosi, described Google's actions as "an example to businesses and governments."

What's more, Google's gambit gave its competitors the perfect chance to shoot themselves squarely in the foot. Bill Gates described Google's dispute with China as "a complex issue" and argued that "you have got to decide, do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not? If not, you may not end up doing business there."

Ballmer described Google's stance as "irrational" and stated "We have done business in China for more than 20 years and we intend to stay engaged, which means our business must respect the laws of China."

Featured Resources

2,000 days: the CIO's world in 2025

What the role of the CIO will look like in five years time

Download now

The workers' experience report

How technology can spark motivation, enhance productivity and strengthen security

Download now

6 best practices for escaping ransomware

A complete guide to tackling ransomware attacks

Download now

The IT roadmap from modernisation to innovation with consistent hybrid cloud

A guide to a modern, cloud-enabled IT infrastructure

Download now
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/policy-legislation/data-governance/354496/brexit-security-talks-under-threat-after-uk-accused-of
data governance

Brexit security talks under threat after UK accused of illegally copying Schengen data

10 Jan 2020
Visit/security/cyber-security/354468/if-not-passwords-then-what
cyber security

If not passwords then what?

8 Jan 2020
Visit/policy-legislation/31772/gdpr-and-brexit-how-will-one-affect-the-other
Policy & legislation

GDPR and Brexit: How will one affect the other?

9 Jan 2020
Visit/web-browser/30394/what-is-http-error-503-and-how-do-you-fix-it
web browser

What is HTTP error 503 and how do you fix it?

7 Jan 2020