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Weird things happening at Google right now (and what we can learn from that)

In China, the dragonfly symbolises prosperity, harmony and luck. But Google's Project Dragonfly - a c
Disruptors Co
Weird things happening at Google right now (and what we can learn from that)
By Disruptors Co • Issue #112 • View online
In China, the dragonfly symbolises prosperity, harmony and luck. But Google’s Project Dragonfly - a censored search application for the Chinese market - seems not to be living up to the symbolism. So far, seven Google employees are reported to have quit the firm, citing issues with the ethics of the application, and noting that it may be in breach of international law and human rights provisions. The problem seems to be that all searches conducted through the engine would be linked to citizens’ phone numbers, making every search trackable by the Chinese government.
Other projects at Google are also being challenged. The new pricing model at Google Maps means that projects used by educators to teach about place have had to close down.
Then last week, Google’s lawyers were in court in Europe, arguing against the right to be forgotten, a central component of that region’s General Data Protection Regulation.
Meanwhile, Google co-founder, Larry Page, seems to be invoking his own right to be forgotten, having spurned an invitation to attend a Senate Intelligence Committee, investigating how Russian-sponsored operatives may have used technology to influence the 2016 election. Considering that Google complied with a request from Putin’s party to remove Russian opposition party ads from YouTube prior to their last election, the failure to attend the US hearing may well be moot.
We all remember Google’s first principle: Don’t be Evil. But what constitutes ‘evil’ can vary dramatically, depending on your audience. And the realities of doing business and making money for your services can lead you down pathways that may appear to compromise your value systems.
What can we learn from this? Communicating about business decisions and approaches to policy and process is vital to maintaining trust in your business. Being clear about what your projects intend to achieve is key to building the right engineering teams. Negotiating public interest pricing for educational versions of your products is just common sense. Accepting that data processing matters more than the data itself is going to be crucial. And of course, turning up to hearings matters.
If you are going to sustain trust, you need to communicate. And if you don’t feel confident about communication, then find someone who can communicate for you.

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