Cornerstone of Tech Giant’s Code of Conduct All But Disappears
Mentions of Google’s former motto “Don’t be Evil” have almost entirely disappeared from a recent edition of the company’s updated internal documents, according to reporting by the Independent. In a truly Orwellian move reminiscent of the surveillance state in 1984 able to purge and delete digital history on a whim, however, Google has quietly removed most mentions of the motto from its code of conduct, relegating the once prolific term underwriting the company’s ethics to a single appearance near the end of the document.
While these three famous words have been out-of-use in the company’s official motto for years, Google retained “don’t be evil” as the cornerstone of its official code of conduct, which until recently began with the phrase and repeated it twice in the document’s first two paragraphs.
The most up-to-date release of the company’s code of conduct instead favors intentionally vague and less morally absolute language, betraying what was once at least a minimal effort to maintain an appearance of uncompromising ethics with the unveiling of a new corporate-ese code of conduct “[…]built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct.”
According to the Independent’s story, the document is a staggering 6,313 words, with “don’t be evil” featuring only in a seeming footnote:
“And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!”
Given Google’s seedy company among fellow Silicon Valley giants under increasing public scrutiny for vast privacy violations and [ab]uses of the staggering amount of public data such firms Hoover and retain en masse, the cheery reminder at the company code of conduct’s end rings insincere at best and at worst reads hardly above some double-thought INGSOC propaganda slogan.
In recent weeks and months, Google workers seeking to act in accordance with their own consciences have indeed questioned and protested actions by their employer that might be perceived as in violation of “don’t be evil,” notably with the revelations of Project Maven.
Project Maven is a DoD project to accelerate military acquisition and deployment of private sector AI. Google developed military surveillance AI for Project Maven. Despite having worked with the military before to contract Google technologies for more pedestrian uses, Project Maven puts company employees in the ethically fraught terrain of developing technology able to indirectly—perhaps eventually directly—assist in targeting and killing people in direct support of combat operations.
Recently, in fact, Google researchers urged their leadership to evaluate and reconsider involvement in Maven, and about a dozen employees resigned from Google in direct protest of Project Maven involvement, their concerns falling on deaf ears it seems.
For more coverage, read more at independent.co.uk