Last Updated 22 Jun 2020

Google: The Dynamics of Ethics / Ground Rules

Category Ethics, Google
Essay type Research
Words 1137 (4 pages)
Views 379

Abstract

Ethics is critical for the success of business. Organizations and businesses strive to develop and implement sound ethical strategies as a part of their promotion campaigns. Present day consumers know what stands behind ethical rules in business; they are more cautious in their desire to disclose private information; they look for confidentiality, sustainability, and respect. With the rapid technological advancement and with the emergence of the new e-business concepts, traditional understanding of ground rules of ethics has undergone a strategic shift: online businesses have revealed the extreme flexibility of ground ethical rules in business – the flexibility that makes these rules change under the pressure of the volatile business environments.

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Business Ethics: Changing Ground Rules

Introduction

Ethics is critical for the success of business. Organizations and businesses strive to develop and implement sound ethical strategies as a part of their promotion campaigns. Present day consumers know what stands behind ethical rules in business; they are more cautious in their desire to disclose private information; they look for confidentiality, sustainability, and respect. With the rapid technological advancement and with the emergence of the new e-business concepts, traditional understanding of ground rules of ethics has undergone a strategic shift: online businesses have revealed the extreme flexibility of ground ethical rules in business – the flexibility that makes these rules change under the pressure of the volatile business environments.

Ground rules, confidentiality, and California privacy policy law

The concept of privacy is the source of major controversies in business ethics. Privacy and confidentiality are just some out of many ground rules, which we learn to respect since childhood. Under the impact of technological advancement, and with the growing share of e-business markets, the ground rules in ethics have been expanded to ensure that customers feel secure and safe when using the benefits of online business. Now, privacy is the effective instrument used by online businesses to develop and maintain trust among customers; finally, privacy is the reliable foundation for ethical continuity in business and management (IBM Global Services, 2001; Hamelink, 2000).

With the growing need for better privacy, California has adopted a new privacy law that came into force on July 1, 2004, “demanding that all commercial web sites that collect ‘personally identifiable information’ from users in California must now have a conspicuous privacy policy on their web sites – even if based overseas” (Out-Law News, 2004). The new California Online Privacy Protection Act has completely changed the vision of privacy online: websites had to change their traditional approaches to privacy, to ensure that all Californian residents signing up to their products or services were protected from privacy breaches.

Although the majority of online communities have subsequently reconsidered their attitudes to privacy, that was not the case with Google. For more than 3 years, Google was persistently ignoring public claims and calls to provide a privacy policy link on its homepage. For some unknown reason, Google was confident that its users had easy access to the company’s privacy policy, and viewed privacy as the secondary element of successful online business performance. As one of the major business providers online, Google was expected to exemplify flexibility and responsibility in terms of privacy policy changes in California; yet, the company appeared to be the last to “place the word ‘privacy’ on the Google.com web page” (Espiner, 2008).

Long as Google’s path to ethical self-realization has been, it signifies the flexibility of ground rules of ethics as such, and the changeability and flexibility of ethical policies and beliefs, when pressured by changes in law. Objectively, before placing the ‘privacy’ link on its homepage, Google has gone through several stages of Kohlberg’s moral reasoning – from simplified ‘good-bad’ idea of business ethics to the recognition of universally accepted societal norms.

At the earlier stages of the company’s ethical evolution, Google’s relations with the public resembled a marketplace (University of South Maine, 2008), where any changes or ethical initiatives had to be the source of material gain; otherwise, the importance and relevance of such initiatives for Google was almost zeroed. With time, the company’s attitudes to privacy have been gradually transformed to form a reasonable balance between law and order. At that stage of moral maturity, Google had to recognize the dominance and objective superiority of laws over the company’s narrow views on ground ethical rules.

Under the pressure of the law and the public, Google has come to realize the essence of the so-called “social contract” (Windsor & Cappel, 1999): the company had but to accept the relevance and importance of ethical rules, which had been agreed upon by society. Finally, Google had to admit the importance and relevance of privacy as a universally accepted ethical norm in business.

Surprisingly or not, but the changes in Google’s approaches to privacy did not happen as a result of changes in Californian privacy law. Rather, Google had to review its ethical beliefs under the growing pressure of ethically conscious organizations and individuals. The story of Google’s journey to ethical excellence shows that ground ethical rules do change under the impact of the public.

Google’s reluctance to place a privacy policy link on its homepage suggests that the public may appear a more powerful force in the fight for flexibility of ethical approaches and compliance. Moreover, Google’s long way to accepting and fulfilling legal requirements reveals the essence of ground ethical rules’ dynamics in virtual marketplaces. In case of Google, legal (and actually, ethical) compliance has become a least-evil measure that helped the company avoid serious legal consequences, and has subsequently formed the basis for in-depth review of its faulty ethical beliefs in business.

Conclusion

Kohlberg suggests that in the process of ethical maturation, businesses and individuals go through the six different stages of moral reasoning (University of South Maine, 2008). Those, who view the world through the oversimplified prism of “bad vs. good”, finally come to realize the importance of universally accepted norms that form the basis for successful business performance.

The case of Google reveals the hidden facets of ground ethical rules’ dynamics in present day business. Ground ethical rules become more flexible under the pressure of legal and ethical changes. Although many companies use legal and ethical compliance as a least-evil measure for avoiding serious legal consequences, this compliance is the key to in-depth review of ethical norms and gradual recognition of privacy as the key to successful organizational performance in online business.

References

Espiner, T. (2008). Campaigners call for Google privacy policy link. ZDNet Asia. Retrieved

December 27, 2008 from http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/internet/0,39044908,62042299,00.htm

Hamelink, C.J. (2000). The ethics of cyberspace. SAGE.

IBM Global Services. (2001). Enterprise privacy architecture: securing returns on e-business.

Retrieved December 27, 2008 from http://www-935.ibm.com/services/ph/bcs/pdf/g510-1913-enterprise-privacy-architecture.pdf

Out-Law. (2004). California’s privacy policy law affects us all. Out-Law.com. Retrieved

December 27, 2008 from http://www.out-law.com/page-4759

University of South Maine. (2008). Kohlberg’s three levels and six stages of moral reasoning.

Retrieved December 27, 2008 from http://students.usm.maine.edu/bmcpha61/Kohlberg_stages_of_morality.htm

Windsor, J.C. & Cappel, J.J. (1999). A comparative study of moral reasoning. College

Student Journal, 33: 129-142.  

 

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Google: The Dynamics of Ethics / Ground Rules. (2018, Apr 15). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/google-the-dynamics-of-ethics-ground-rules/

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