Google: Evil, Good -- or Both?

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Infamous tech giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) now faces a privacy controversy in Europe, after one of its engineers wrote malicious code while working on a project to gather 360-degree electronic photos for Google Maps. The "screw-up," as Google's CEO called it, could have allowed the company access to the personal details of millions of Internet users, including bank account information. Google has promised to delete the information, and the company is also conducting an internal review of its privacy practices.

Google has confronted other privacy issues in the recent past. A few months back, the company launched Buzz, a social-networking platform that allows Gmail users to share status updates, photos, videos, and more. Shortly after Buzz's debut, millions of Gmail users presumably had their contact information exposed to the world -- without having the choice to decline the service.

Fool analyst Anders Bylund questioned Google's motto, "Don't be evil," in reaction to a well-followed tech writer, Kirk McElhearn, who boldly declared he was dropping Google altogether (mainly because of privacy concerns) and exploring alternatives such as Yahoo! and Microsoft's Bing.

Conversely, however, there are plenty of people who sing the praises of Google for having the best search engine and email platform in the biz, along with its Android phone and superior advertising innovations. Oh, yeah -- and its stock hasn't performed badly, either. Google shares have just about doubled in the past five years, from $282 apiece in June 2005 to their current price of $498.

But while Google is undoubtedly superior in many ways, is it worth compromising your privacy? McElhearn doesn't think so, and some European countries are certainly peeved right now, if not considering legal action. Let us know what you think in the comments box below!

Claire Stephanic does not own any of the companies mentioned. Google is a recommendation in Rule Breakers. Mircrosoft is a recommendation in Inside Value and Motley Fool Options. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On June 10, 2010, at 2:52 PM, HectorLemans wrote:

    Voluntarily pulling out of China because of censorship concerns moves them a long way towards the "good side" in my book. They gave up quite a bit of potential (and actual) revenue in doing that. They're so enormous now that I'm sure they're going to do some questionable stuff as outlined in the article but for now I'm a happy shareholder.

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