Don't be evil was dropped by Google in 2015. Maybe that's the last time it was a concern in technology
Bottom Line: Recently, during the fallout from the Facebook data scandal, I shared what data brokering is and how it happens. Ironically enough within a few days Facebook severed ties with the data brokers it had been using to help pool their data and package it for maximum profit. For many, my story was the first introduction to the term data brokering, that they'd come across, I'm still receiving notes and questions asking about it. Now the questions have shifted in another direction. Actual intent. On Friday, a leaked 2016 memo from a Facebook executive emerged and there's been another firestorm for Facebook ever since.
Here's the key controversial excerpt: Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.
There's not really any ambiguity about the message is there? And keep in mind - this was 2016 - right at the peak of ISIS's strength. Right at the time many of us were questioning why ISIS and related groups were so easily able to open accounts, propagate their message and have users like and share it on the platform. Now we have a more honest assessment. Facebook had been erroring on the side of "connecting" people. As many as possible as a de facto good in their minds. What's even more notable in the context of this revelation is the level of understanding we now have regarding how much information they had and have on everyone on their platform. Is it possible that whole terror cells could have been revealed had Facebook simply been proactive and erroring on the side of doing the right thing rather than the de facto good position of erroring on the side of terrorists for example?
How about in the context of today's events like the signs by Nikolas Cruz, the Austin bomber, etc.? This all reminded me of Google's original motto that they ironically dropped in 2015 - "don't be evil". The founders were smart people in 2000 when they created Google and realized it's potential to perpetuate evil if their creation was successful. Isn't it a touch ironic that they dropped it in 2015 as data brokering and the profiting off it was reaching new heights? Maybe they agreed with Facebook's position at the time or maybe they realized they weren't living up to the motto and didn't care. Either way we have a clearer idea about how and why technology has been successfully used to perpetuate evil. To many behind it, it's the lessor evil, to a global agenda - more money - more control, or whatever it is that makes them tick. As President Trump is picking a fight with Amazon right now, this backdrop is a reminder about why it's important to have parity in the marketplace. As I cited with my previous data brokering story.... Facebook had been number one in the world, Google number two, Microsoft number three but Amazon was fourth and rising fast. There's a lot more to all these stories than meets the eye.
What are the actual intentions of those running these companies? We don't really know do we? Is it just a coincidence that Google dropped their motto? Why did Bezos really buy the Washington Post while continuing to create the world's largest retailer? To be continued.