A lot has changed in the corporate culture of Google since Stanford Graduate students, Larry Page and Surgey Brin, founded it in the late 90’s. I listened to the podcast of “Confessions of a Google Employee” which was an interview with a early Google Employee, Doug Edwards, who was the Director of Consumer Marketing and Brand Management. Edwards was also employee number fifty-nine meaning he was at Google in its infancy before it was a search giant and a subject of many major controversies.
When Edwards was an employee at Google, Google came up with their guiding principle, “Don’t be Evil”, which Google is now frequently criticized for violating with their many acquisitions and use of users’ information. Back then, Google was not as “corporate”, they were a search engine that had fun with that, spawning things like the special Google logos for holidays and a notoriously fun working environment. They were also almost solely focused on their search engine and their search algorithm, while now, they have many different projects that all tie back in one-way or another to search. They were also working to become the top search engine and de-throne the current top engine of the time, Yahoo!
Since Edwards left, there has been many controversies over Google’s use of users’ personal information and how they use it and sell it to advertisers to generate immense amounts of money. Google has been the center of many privacy controversies ever since it grew into a more corporate entity, while when Edwards was there, it was much more of a start-up and intended to be more altruistic and in fact didn’t make a profit until five years after it’s founding.
Unlike their early days, Google is now the top search engine in the world, and because of that, they have collected a lot of personal information that is incredibly valuable for advertisers to target ads specifically for each individual user. But as I previously mentioned, users have protested the usage of personal information for advertisements. One such example of this, mentioned in the interview is Gmail, many users protested that Google was reading the emails, obviously not Google employees actually reading each emails and deciding what ads they will see, but using the search spiders that they use to find new websites, to search the messages for keywords and using them to target appropriate ads. This is a concern that causes many privacy-cautious people to not use Gmail, but at the same time many email providers do the same thing. Personally, this doesn’t stop me from using Gmail, because I love the powerful feature set I get from Gmail that I couldn’t get from other e-mail providers and although they are skimming my email for ads, I figure that I at least know what they are doing, while I have less of an idea about the other email providers who have not been as much in the public eye.
Google has changed a lot since it was founded. It started out as an innovative new search company and has now really evolved in to a large information corporation. Google is now a huge player in the most valuable commodity on the Internet, user information and has capitalized on the information in many innovative ways that many of their competitors are not. Despite being the center of these many controversies, Google sites remain extremely popular and as a result profitable. People may often question Google’s practices and if they are still following their “Don’t Be Evil” rule but, Google remains the most popular website on the internet.