Wednesday, May 11, 2005
LUS should take the "Don't be Evil" pledge
Mahlon (whoever that is) writes:
Yes, Google has huge potential to be evil, but so far it has resisted the temptation because it would lose the trust of its customers. Wise management will keep their focus on customer trust, even as they handle more and more customer data. If Google ever loses the trust of its customers, that is, if it is ever caught in an evil act, that'd be very, very bad for shareholders. The key, it seems to me, is to build, and then enforce, a largely impermeable membrane between the business side of the business and the service (or "editorial") side, the way newspapers used to do. Or the way ethical accountants do when they're handling client money.It's been pointed out -- by at least two people who I respect greatly -- that the Lafayette Utilities System FTTH project is a vertically integrated enterprise. That is, it offers a network AND services that ride on that network. Making that choice, it gives rise to the perception that, "Government is choosing what you watch on TV." Again, a definite membrane, carefully constructed and meticulously enforced, would ensure that services are not tied to the network and that the offering of TV channels is not, "dictated by government." Lafayette Utilities System should explicitly take the "Don't be Evil," pledge. Before the July 16 referendum!
I think you nailed the definition of "Don't Be Evil." It's about earning the trust of the public by avoiding conflicts of interest.
It would be easy for Google to dramatically boost this year's earnings by taking ad money to influence search results. Ranking in the first ten results for a search on "digital camera" is worth a lot dough.
Some in the traditional media are losing sight of their fiduciary duty to the public, and are selling out for a quick buck. But I think the price they pay in the long term is the erosion of the public's trust, just as you're not getting your news from the US press anymore.
Some people say that corporate social responsibility, or a "Don't Be Evil" ethic, are actually unethical because to forgo revenue in pursuit of ethics shortchanges the shareholder. I think Google has shown that maybe a "Don't Be Evil" approach is the one reliable way to build value that endures.
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