Google and the Question of Evil
January 27, 2012 Leave a comment
Finally, in point of fact you can opt out very simply: Don’t use Google products. I can’t think of a single Google product that has no substitute. Vote with your virtual feet. You can leave Google at any time.
The advice is simple, but also simplistic. Simon relies upon an unrealistic conception of the world as an open marketplace of goods and services, which it is not.
“The Company Story” — a business upon which workers depend — is not a relic of the past, but has only grown more complicated and comprehensive in the contemporary world. Sure, leaving Google is technically possible, but that ignores how some of these tech companies offer services which are necessary for operating in the world, particularly when it comes to communications.
As I’ve noted before, we used to recognize the importance of providing all citizens access to a national communications network, so much that we enshrined it in the Constitution. But as opposed to sending snail mail, if we want to use email we are at the mercy of private companies, and if we don’t want to use email we’re at a material disadvantage when it comes to anything from applying to jobs or reading the news.
I’m not arguing that we own Google, but that just as individuals should be responsible for making ethical choices, so should companies. Google’s abandoned motto of “Don’t Be Evil” used to be an acknowledgment that ethical considerations might have a place in a world of capitalism. Was that naive?
Flashback to Google Repackaging User Data
Flashforward to Phil Simon: It’s Money that Matters