Google's slogan for all intensive purposes is "Do No Evil," but are they really an ethical company? Deciding whether a business is ethical or not depends on the type of business that it is, the expectations of the customers, and the actions of the business. So what type of business is Google? This discussion requires us to look into the purpose of the search engine a little more closely. To start, a little bit about the history of the search engine and Google's role in its development.
Google was founded in 1998 by two Stanford graduates Larry Page and Sergey Prin who had a vision of perfecting the model of the search engine, which was a pretty new kind of business at the time. The search engines of the time were terrible and were only able to provide results based on a simple "keyword density," the number of times a keyword appears in a site's content. Google
People accept the role of the search engine to be exactly what it is and Google is good at its job. This is largely because of the actions of the company in its pursuit to provide the users with good service. From the beginning, the search engine was meant to be as objective as possible, with the least potential for human error. Initially, the business preferred to provide great results than to make money from providing advertisements and was strongly against it. But later it was able to devise a way to implement paid search without comprimising the objectivity. Since then the company has allowed the paid search model to work alongside its organic search model. It distinguishes advertisements in search results from the standard search results by shading the background in tan instead of white, and placing them on the sides of the page instead of in the center. Also, Google places a small caption above these results which directly labels them as ads with a link explaining why the ads are in place.
This link brings up a text box which clarifies that "these ads are based on your current search terms" and below that there is a link to Google's Ad Preferences Manager which lets users remove ads from their results as they choose. Furthermore, the company strives to only provide ads that are as relevant to a given search as the organic results themselves.
So it seems that the company's model for the search engine is ethical in itself. It is created to only return the best results for the search, without spamming the user with excess ads and self-promotion.
All of this combined creates the ethical basis of the company. It is said that power corrupts, but in Google's case that doesn't seem to be true. They've become literally the God of the Internet and like God they could destroy it if they so desired. But they continue to maintain the objectivity of their search engine and protect the integrity of the company. "Do No Evil" can thus be translated as "Do Not Hurt the Users" in terms of their needs. The users need information and Google does what is necessary to give it to them without cost or difficulty. Perhaps new companies should look to Google when learning how to not only create but also maintain trust with their customers.