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Case Study

Ethical Issues Facing Google

1. Introduction

1.1 Company Profile

Google was officially launched in September 1998 after being founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brim while they were still students at Stanford University. The company’s mission is organizing information across the world in a manner that it becomes useful and accessible from all corners of the globe (Schneider, n. d.).

1.2 Behaviors that Make a Company Unethical

Unethical behaviors in a company are evident in various forms such as misrepresentation of company information to the public, unhealthy competition in the industry and mistreatment of employees of the particular company. Unethical behaviors also occur when a company fails its confidentiality responsibility towards its clients.

1.3 Reasons why Companies Behave Unethically

Companies may engage in unethical behaviors in order to enjoy supernormal profits without increasing inputs into their operations. Unethical behaviors can also occur in a company for purposes of tax evasion and other government obligation required to conducting their business.

2. Google Company Overview

2.1 Unethical Practices of Google

Google came up with a great idea of Google Glass that can allow users to take a picture, video and voice records of the surrounding. Google glass comprises of wearable glasses fitted with a camera and a voice recorder where it allows the user to take secret photos of happening within his/her surrounding. There have emerged recent protests in the San Francisco Bare area where protesters are targeting the private shuttle buses being used by the company to whisk employees in the high traffic highway. This issue has been termed as an income inequality issue portrayed by the company (McLaughlin, n. d.). Furthermore, the company is facing privacy issues concerning the application of Google Glass by journalists across the United Kingdom. The major concern with the glasses arises from the fact that any person can use the glasses to film and record other people’s activities without their consent. Unauthorized surveillance use of the device by journalists appears to violate the Press Commission Complaint Code that prevents unauthorized use of hidden cameras (Gross, 2014). The code clearly stipulates that the medial should be restricted from taking photographs of individuals in private places without their permission.

2.2. Consequences of Google’s Behaviors

Being the pioneer of this particular device, the company may face consequences collapse in the next few years. Many executives involved in the development of the device have already left the company because of the looming problems of the Google glass usage. The issues possess difficulties in trying to attract consumers into the new device. Competitors may soon take advantage of the situation in the company to come up with a similar device with well-controlled measures of usage. The miss use of the device is making it be frequently cited by pundits as an example of the way technology is being used to deny people of their privacy. The events may lead to legal action against the company’s new technology and a possible ban of the device in the market (Twitter, n. d.).

2.3 The Affected Factors

The unethical conducts currently going on in the company are affecting the transport industry, the economy, and the media. The use of the city bus stop for its private employees’ shuttle has brought congesting in the San Francisco Bay area since the public shuttles are denied enough parking space for their customers. This has created a traffic jam causing problems in commuter services and also personal transport services. The event is delaying the transport system especially at rush hours, and this seems to be drugging behind the entire economy of the region. The Google glass usage has raised concerns over privacy of every person. The possibility of a glass to capture images of the surrounding is something that is much worrying since journalists are supposed to use visible cameras while executing their work as one of the code of conduct in the journalism industry (Gross, 2014). A wearable glass device is meant for the purpose of medical use or as a protective device but not serving as a camera.

2.4 Problems caused by the new Device

Users of Google Glass are being told of caution while wearing the device simply because they are ‘wearing a computer on their face.’ This can be harmful to the human body system. Wearing the glasses in the real world has soon begun to be an ethical misconduct and public places such as bars and restaurants have begun discouraging people with Google Glasses on their face. The fact that facial wearing can perform voice and picture recording has raised suspicion in place such as San Francisco where headphones are also being discouraged in public places; this comes with the idea that such devices can also perform similar functions as the wearable glasses (Gross, 2014).

3. Possible Solution for the Consequences

3.1 Long-Term Consequences

The consequences caused by Google by its use of private shuttle buses to whisk employees are long term because the image portrayed to the public about the company may never disappear from the people’s minds. The initial public confidence of the company to its customers as being one of the companies that promote social and economic equality might be ruined forever. Failure to put proper guidelines about the use of the Google Glass in public might be a clear indication that the company is innovative but does not take the public interest and will into account. The relationship of the company with cooperates world may never remain the same. Corporate clients and companies might be scared of Google as being able to use its technology to spy or steal innovative ideas from other companies.

3.2. Fixing the Ethical Problems

The company could have fixed its ethical problems by immediately responding to the protests around San Francisco once they realized that the public was rebelling against their action. The problem required dialogue between the company’s executives and the public transport officials in the area to settle the matter and possibly disregard its idea of using the private shuttles to whisk its employees. With the introduction of the Google Glass, the company failed to identify the legal aspects surrounding the use of hidden cameras in public places. If this aspect had been observed earlier, the device would have gained roots in the market instead of encountering on its use. Initially, the Google glasses were being issued to licensed individuals for specific purposes, but the problem began when the glasses reached the hands of common citizens. This practice licensing the use of Google Glass would have prevailed to prevent the current problem of their public use.

3.3. Violation of Human Rights

Of course, the use of Google Glasses in public violates human rights in various ways. As stated earlier, human beings have a right to privacy either in public or private places. This right to privacy has been denied by the Google Glass use. It is difficult to control the use of secret cameras, and this means that much damage has already happened. The device is being described as a computer on someone’s face, and this poses many questions to the health of individuals. The company aims to make profits but does not consider the harmful effects of electromagnetic rays to the users. The act is a violation of the right to health of the users.

Code of Ethics for Google

— Rule 1: Google Glass should have a licensed use in public

— Rule 2: Google Glass should be used for investigative purposes

— Rule 3: Google Glass should be designed to reduce harmful effects on the human body

— Rule 4: Google Company should use the Google Glass device to improve security

— Rule 5: Google Company should invent products that uplift human dignity

— Rule 6: Google should formulate legal guidelines of using their new products before launching

This code of ethics will be helpful because it will solve problems of its new products before complaints and suits are filed against its conducts.

4. Conclusion and Reflection

The study of Google’s unethical practices helps in the understanding of practices that may cause problems and possible collapse of a company. In this sense, it is important for any company official to assess the effects of its new technologies. Growth is important for any company and any company that does not aim for or experience growth is at risk. But the move to experience growth should correspond to the legal guidelines concerning new technology. The case study on ethical problems facing the company is a good directive of how ethics should be responded to before they can cause more damages to the image of a company.


Gross, A. (2014). What’s the Problem with Google Glass? Retrieved November 03, 2016, from

McLaughlin, K. (n.d.). The 10 Most Controversial Companies Of 2014 (So Far). Retrieved

programs/300073549/the-10-most-controversial-companies-of-2014-so-far.htm/pgno/0/4 03, 2016, from

Schneider, B. L. (n.d.). Company Profile and Job Information for Google. Retrieved November

history-2071320, 2016, from

Twitter, B. T. (n.d.). The legal and ethical issues around using Google Glass for journalism in the

ethical-issues-around-using-google-glass-for-journalism-in-the-uk Retrieved November 03, 2016, from