Google: Ethical or Evil?

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Google is a company that was conceptualized in a dorm room by two Stanford University college students in 1996 (Arnold, 2005, p. 1) and has morphed into one of the greatest technological powerhouses in operation today. What began as merely a means to analyze and categorize Web sites according to their relevance has developed into a vast library of widely utilized resources, including email servicing, calendaring, instant messaging and photo editing, just to reference a few. Recent statistics collected by SearchEngineWatch.com reflects that of the 10 billion searches performed within the United States during the month of February, 2008, an impressive 5.9 billion of them were executed by Google (Burns, 2008). Rated as Fortune Magazine’s…show more content…
Google’s release of its Gmail service in April, 2004 caused an immediate backlash of complaints by watch groups who voiced concerns regarding Google’s plan to use content extraction, a process of scanning the text of all incoming and outgoing messages for the purpose of placing paid advertisements on the page (Dixon and Givens, 2004). The Gmail privacy policy does state that content will be used to provide relevant advertisements, but the statement disguises this practice of ad placement as a “service” (Gmail Privacy Policy, ¶ 6) to the user, not as an annoyance as many would perceive it. Users who subscribe for the free Gmail service agree to the extraction of content within their messages at the time of registration, but those non-subscribers who engage in messaging with Gmail users do not. This is where the contention lies. Without the consent of both parties involved in an email exchange, is it ethically acceptable for Google to extract data from these messages? Personal and private information could be contained within a message sent by a party unaffiliated with the Gmail service. Were they
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