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Try not to be evil

Atop Google's code of conduct was a simple motto: 'Don't be evil'. This was their poignant three word slogan, their mantra, their creed. But in 2018, like an ancient webpage in Google's search rankings, it subtly sunk to the very bottom. Don't be evil or, perhaps, just don't be seen to be evil.

Google is not an inherently evil organisation. It was once quite innocent. It had a great goal to 'organise the world's information' not to wreck havoc over the internet. Its name originated from a misspelling of Googol. It didn't even have a business model: 'we'll figure out how to monetise that'. Speaking in 2004, Google co-founder, Larry Page said that he wanted 'to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible'.

The company lost any sheen of innocence long ago. Author Jonathan Taplin claims that Google will do 'whatever it wants without asking permission, and the results will be so awesome that nobody will complain.' He's not wrong: Google is great at normalisation.

If some stranger tried to take photos of the houses of everyone in the world, they would be called a creep. Google did it and called it Street View.

You sometimes wonder if Google is trying to sound evil. Former CEO Eric Schmidt, a name of near comic-book villainy, assured us that: 'We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about.' An article from Engadget understood: 'In order for Google to be Google, it has to do evil.' From its benign beginings, Google chose to distance itself from the wholly uncontroversial idea of not being evil. Indeed, it chose to be evil.

Google is a comically large monopoly. It has hundreds of products with billions of users, from tracking pixels to Pixel phones. Back in 2011, Daniel Soar summed up the situation: 'You can't get away from Google'. It must be one of the biggest companies that really knows all of its customers. We share our most intimate thoughts with the search bar - and Google shares them with the highest bidder.

Yet Google does a lot of good. It's undeniable. The American tech company provides information to most of the world. It is stupidly easy to use: anyone almost anywhere can search for anything. Google is fast, reliable and (for the most part) trusted. It works, and it works well.

This is Google's greatest crime: convenience. The search engine's sprawling tendrils connect people across the globe - and sell them ads in the process. For free. You used to pay to search the net - now the net is paid to search you.

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