Defending Google, the video

Here’s video of my presentation at the NPR Intelligence Squared debate on whether Google violates its “don’t be evil” motto:

I am responding to Siva Vaidhyanathan’s inspired recitation of Google’s execution of the seven deadly sins; I answered with eight virtues. More videos are here. Here’s a transcript. The audio will be up soon.

Saul Hansell of the Times Bits Blog covered the debate and then followed up with Google CEO Eric Schmidt making the point I made in the start of my talk, explaining the don’t-be-evil vow to the editorial board of The New York Times (you’re welcome from that straight line). Schmidt said: “‘Don’t be evil’ is an invitation to debate. It means we will fight over what it means.”

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  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    It’s actually a pretty simple question. “Don’t be evil” says that in its essence, its fundamental nature, and its structure the company shouldn’t organize itself for evil. Google fails because its business plan requires it to collect as much deeply personal information on each and every one of us as it can, and then to sell that information at the highest possible price. This is exactly the same mission that the KGB had, differing only by how the information is monetized. And Google’s method of monetizing is even more evil and less ethical than the KGB’s.

    Google’s business plan is evil squared, and they get away with it by sugar-coating is mission with a lot of smarmy talk about openness and freedom, which rightly understood is their freedom to impose openness on our personal information for their benefit.

    The “Google is evil” side won the debate by a 2:1 margin, of course.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Then, Richard, why do you take Google’s filthy lucre with AdSense ads? Why do you – yes, you – act as an agent of the evil empire by putting its ads and its cookie generator on your page to collect this personal information – my god, my sex life, my blood type, my assets, my SAT scores! – from merely looking at your page?!?

    Come now. A bit overdramatic, I’d say. Your grocery-store shopper card knows more about you than Google. Ditto your mass transit card. Ditto your credit card. Ditto Amazon, which knows more about you and what you buy than anyone.

    The tinfoil is falling over the eyes in to many discussions of privacy.

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  • invitedmedia

    what’s wrong with the kgb when you’ve just lived 8 years of gwb?

    yes, there is extreme value in your shopper’s card info.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    And the irony, as Steve Baker points out in The Numerati, is that they hardly use it.

  • http://www.Leebow.com Ken Leebow

    I think after-the-fact, Eric Schmidt created the reasoning behind “don’t be evil”. His explanation sounds good, but it seems contrived.

    Let’s be honest, Google is quickly becoming a monopoly…so, by default they are becoming evil.

    Let’s hope they encounter the Starbucks and Wal-Mart dilemma.

    PS. Mr. Jarvis, it seems like you have taken the kool-aid. The reality is, Yahoo, Ask, and others search the Internet just as well. However, no one talks about them.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    It’s about more than search. Yahoo & Ask tried to turn search into media. Google understood that it is infrastructure. Google is smarter.

  • invitedmedia

    it is amazing the wealth of information people will willing give someone they trust in exchange for offers to save them some coin.

    i was involved in a very small card-based effort a few years back that p&g would have been well to notice.

    i guess since it dealt with one-to-one marketing vs. carpet bombing they had no interest.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    “Your grocery-store shopper card knows more about you than Google.”

    Not even close.

  • http://kat-collins.blogspot.com/ Kat

    I really like your arguments. I have used some of the videos from the conference on my blog. Siva has commented and I have now responded in a new blog. http://kat-collins.blogspot.com/2008/11/response-to-siva.html

  • http://www.edcone.com Ed Cone

    Business as usual in the woods.

    “Evil” only by a narrow definition, but it’s the definition that applies.