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Debating Corporate Evil

By Reuters  |  Posted 06-12-2008 Print

Debating Corporate Evil

When he first joined Google as CEO seven years ago, Schmidt acknowledged thinking the "Don't be evil" phrase was a "joke" being played on him by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Schmidt recalled sitting in Google's offices later in 2001 when an engineer interrupted a strategy discussion over a planned advertising product by saying, "That is evil."

"It is like a bomb goes off in the room. Everything stopped. Everyone had a moral and ethical conversation, which by the way, stopped the product," Schmidt said.

"So it is a cultural rule, a way of forcing a conversation, especially in areas which are ambiguous," he said of how the mission statement works in practice at Google.

Schmidt reaffirmed that the company's primary goal is not to make money selling ads, whether it is banner ads or ads on Web searches, online video, TV and mobile phones.

"The goal of the company is not to monetize everything, the goal is to change the world ... We don't start from monetization. We start from the perspective of what problems do we have," he said, referring to big, world-class problems.

Apart from its main business, Google also backs, through its philanthropic arm, Google.org, efforts to develop renewable energy, prevent disease and promote government transparency.

But with its growing dominance of the search market&#8212;the starting point for many Internet users&#8212;Google increasingly faces comparison to arch-rival Microsoft, with its long-standing domination of the computer software market.

Google has weathered criticism from human rights activists for doing business in China and over privacy issues that spring from the mountains of data its computers collect on Web users.


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