Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Social Values and Google

John Gapper, in a column in yesterdays FT Google is putting its own freedoms at risk in China points out that

Making money by making the world a better place is nice work if you can get it. Google's founders are so convinced they combine the two that they made "Don't be evil" a founding principle. But what happens when business interests clash with ethics? That is occurring in China not only to Google, but to Microsoft and Yahoo and it ought to make Silicon Valley's finest worried.

Mr. Gapper goes on to talk about the conflicts between the power of Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft and the privacy and political issues that are inevitably emerging. Google seems to be the only search engine that resisted the US government's request for data, but all of them made arrangements with the Chinese government to gain access to the Chinese market.

He concludes,

...In these circumstances, the internet giants ought to tread very carefully. The benefits of an open internet, free from clumsy regulation and inquisitive authorities, have been huge. But they need not last and will be curtailed if the public loses faith in Google and others. China is a vast market but what does it profit an internet company if it gains the whole world and loses its soul?

The implication is that if Google "does lose it's soul" in China, they are at risk of losing their public and threatening some of the value they have created.

In the GME, if even Google is vulnerable to whether customers have faith in them , what might that mean for mere mortal companies?

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