Google began as the company famous for the informal motto “Don’t be Evil” but it now increasingly finds itself cast as the new “evil empire” by detractors, displacing the unenviable position in tech that Microsoft occupied for so long. That may be the harbinger of many changes to the landscape in tech, medicine, mobile and the many other sectors Google has attempted to dominate.
From it’s on-again, off-again participation in internet censorship in countries under totalitarian rule, to getting caught red handed collecting sensitive personal data from local WiFi networks from their Google Street View photography cars, Google finds itself under attack from all sides of late. As the search behemoth throws its weight around, leveraging its dominance in search, it has created some very powerful enemies, and is now beset with lawsuits over its anti-competitive business practices, from providing preferential treatment in search to their own products and services, tocopyright infringement lawsuits over targeted advertising, Google’s core business.
While being one of the largest tech companies by definition means that there are going to be lawsuits and controversies that relate to presumed market dominance, the “don’t be evil” company has demonstrably crossed over the line in the minds of many and is under increasing scrutiny of its business practices as well as some of its corporate relationships by regulators, competitors and consumers who are increasingly uncomfortable with the company’s opaque business practices.
The latest regulatory action relevant to the tech giant has the FDA ordering the shutdown of 23andMe, a consumer genetic testing company in which Google had a significant stake, and one that is operated by it’s founder – who happens to be the wife of Google’s founder. With the FDA stating that 23andMe has failed to analytically or clinically validate the tests that purportedly provide an indication of whether a subject is susceptible to over 250 illnesses and diseases (from diabetes to breast cancer) the FDA’s warning letter indicates that the company also has not been responsive enough in addressing the agency’s concerns.
Reports state that 23andMe has resisted government regulation for years, arguing that it is merely providing consumers with information, and that it is not a medical service, though in the last year, they submitted several of their disease-specific tests to the FDA for validation. In a statement issued by the company, 23andMe admitted they had been slow to respond to the FDA’s questions about the tests, but in a written statement issued by Kendra Casillo, 23andMe’s spokeswoman said “Our relationship with the FDA is extremely important to us and we are committed to fully engaging with them to address their concerns.”
From snooping on the public to trying to oust major companies from their long-held core businesses, utilizing often pirated content to build YouTube into a massive traffic network and more – it would seem to many that Google’s “Don’t be Evil” slogan, is becoming an ironic albatross hung around the company’s neck as a decade of success have recast the company as precisely the kind of corporate monolith it once warned people about.
It speaks volumes that just about any story about Google in the news has worldwide implications for nearly every website, hosting company and digital business owner. The world slowly began to migrate away from complete desktop dominance by Microsoft and now there seem to be plenty of parallels in place as the world migrates away from the desktop to an ‘always on’ infrastructure that Google helped create, their grip may be loosening in much the same way.