Google isn't evil.
Schmidt, Page and Brin aren't sitting in their Californian office-space, plotting their next move to destroy the world, like some kind of post-millennium Legion of Doom rebrand. Or Kim Jong Un on any given day.
Google is a business. And as far as businesses go, it's pretty conventional. Strip away the mythology of office slides and Mensa-esque interviews and you're left with a company that, like any other, is primarily looking to make money. It doesn't owe you a thing.
Now you can debate the ethical implications of capitalism all you want, arguing that the endless pursuit of financial gratification is in itself morally wrong. I'm not interested in that right now (I am on almost any other occasion, especially down the pub); right now, I'm interested in dealing with the world as it is and the ways it's progressing. And that world is becoming more and more 'Google-ised'.
I remarked that Google is primarily looking to make money and there's a reason that I used the word 'primarily'; because Google is also trying to make positive differences to human existence. Don't believe me? Well, start believing; you're about to get a good ol' fashioned explanation.
Without a doubt, there will be those who read this and immediately think 'what about the unpaid taxes and the over-zealous/invasive data-collection?'.
To answer that, I would say that the taxes issue is systemic and common practice for everyone from Amazon to Vodafone. That's not to justify it, but instead to at least explain it in the context of the current climate. Surely, it's the responsibility of governments to close the loop-holes?
In terms of the perceived excess in data-collection; it baffles me why there is such hostility towards Google and yet so little for Facebook, LinkedIn and all the other online services that try to find as much out about their users as possible.
What I'm saying is Google may not be ethically unblemished, but to condemn the search giant, one must also condemn 90% of big business. Which is fine. Feel free to do that. I myself am not so keen on corporate hegemony, but why single out Google, when it's one of very few companies committed to more than just maximising profit.
Right there in its mission statement it says 'Don't be evil'. I think that's why so many people take umbrage with Google's apparently morally-grey activity. When you set yourself up on a pedestal, be prepared to get pelted with stones (said no-one ever, but you've got to love that mixed metaphor).
So how can I justify this apparently inflammatory standpoint? I'll give you three justifications right now:
1/ Google wants to make internet access universal
"Of course they do" I hear/imagine you scoff "the more people on the internet, the more they search and the more advertising dollars go to the big G". That's very true (see my point about Google being a business) but that doesn't detract from what is ultimately a very worthy cause.
I need not wax-lyrical over the Arab Spring's dependency on the net, it's all been said before. And one only need look at its conspicuous absence/censorship in North Korea as evidence of the power of the internet to truly liberate and exalt. Kim Jong Un and his cronies know that, and that's why they won't let their people have it.
Google wants the internet to be available to everyone. It's set up free WiFi throughout entire cities in America.
So what, you may ask? Well, it means entire cities have a guaranteed platform from which its citizens are able to exercise their freedom of speech. If they choose to exercise it by posting pictures of misanthropic felines then so be it.
In the Philippines currently, and with the plan to roll it out in other less-developed areas, Google has released a scaled down, 'Google-ised' version of the internet that can be accessed for free from smartphones. This includes access to Gmail, G+ and search (although access to external results will cost).
The criticism levelled at this is that Google then takes control of what its users sees (which is in fact a criticism often aimed at Google generally) and I agree with that to some extent. A web controlled by one entity goes completely against the original revolutionary and democratised ideology of the internet.
But then how's that any different to what Facebook is currently developing (mobile-encompassing 'Home' screens, social search)? At least with Google, you can see it's a stepping stone. Getting people online in developing nations through a free, 'Google-net' will result in more and more using Google products when 'real' internet becomes more widely available and affordable. For Facebook, they want to become the internet; full stop.
2/ Google wants to make things safer and sustainable
To some, the news that Google was developing driver-less car technology was a bit of a surprise (*note* read the first line of that announcement, my point exactly). At first glance it does seem strange for a company with no prior involvement with the motor industry to be making this move.
When you think about it though, driver-less cars are a completely logical step; when's pretty much the only time we can't be online during waking hours? That's right, when driving. By removing the need to drive, Google can ensure its users are accessing the web almost constantly. And of course, that means more mullah from ads.
The thing is, regardless of what you think about the intention, you can't deny that the results could be of paradigm-shifting importance. Traffic accidents are a huge contributor to avoidable deaths, here in the UK and especially in the US.
Driver-less cars mean safer roads and they'll objectively save lives.
Google is also concerned about the welfare of our planet. It's recently announced it will invest $600 million (on top of $600 million already spent) on a renewable energy plan for its data centre in North Carolina.
It is also carbon neutral and with all of its services hosted on the cloud, Google is one of the greenest tech companies around.
3/ Google makes tech open and free
Apple may be the king of taking existing technology and making it appeal to the masses with sumptuous design and interfaces that can be used by chimps, but Google takes it one step further by making what they do customisable and with infinite scope for development.
Both Android and Chrome are OpenSource projects that represent the collective effort of thousands, to produce systems that are just right for the user.
Combining simplicity and functionality is Google's forté, and we genuinely have them to thank for much of what tech does and how it's used today.
Search may have existed prior to Google, but it was Google that turned into something that was both essential and instantly usable. Plenty of web browsers existed before Chrome, but Chrome takes the best of each and eliminates the defects to create a 'user-first' experience.
I'm not trying to sell these products to you (although it may sound that way!) because chances are you either use them or don't and that's likely how you'll stay. I just feel that Google should be recognised for the contribution it has made to the industry; a contribution that is often overlooked.
I'm no Google fanboy
I'd like to stress this because it will inevitably be levelled at me otherwise.
I like some of Google's products and use them on a daily basis. Others I have never used, will never use or used to use and won't go back to. In my mind that's how using technology should be; putting yourself into an 'only Apple' or 'only Google' box is to limit yourself to the wonderful possibilities that technology opens up.
I'm not saying I condone all of their business practices or plans either; I just think that the services they provide are bigger than that and mean more to the development of the world than a few million lost tax dollars do. Again, not justifying, just explaining that it's purely symptomatic of the world we're in.
Google isn't evil. Google is a business; a business that's changing the world.