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Has Google implemented a strategy that serves all stakeholders?

Discuss about the Identifying and Balancing Privacy Responsibilities.

Google is a world famous company and nearly each and every person is aware about this company. Google is a leading technology company and its products and services help the users in attaining and staying connected to the information. Google has been rapidly growing due it the number of products it has brought for its users, for instance, Gmail, YouTube, Google+ (Nations, 2016). Google has expanded into a number of diverse ventures, which includes, social networking, multiple advertising platforms and the digital book publishing space.

Being a company of such a magnitude, Google has encountered a number of ethical issues (Heineman, 2010). Google allowed the Chinese government to censor some of the aspects of from its sites, so as to enter the market of China, and this was questioned. Along with this, it has been, time and again, questioned for the breach of antitrust laws (Sherman, 2017). Furthermore, the approach of Google towards the collection of the user information and Internet privacy has garnered the attention of the proponents of ethics. Through this study, the various aspects related to the ethics of business of Google has been elucidated, to establish that Google is an ethics based corporation and is a good corporate citizen.

The stakeholders of Google are quite diverse due to the wide range of products it offers. The diversification of Google has gone quite far and includes products from the basic Google Search to the technological advanced products like the Google Fiber and Google Glass (Shaughnessy, 2013). Due to this, Google has a range of stakeholders, who are impacted due to the varied business of the company. To address the interests of the stakeholders, the company implements Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR efforts, based upon the international standards, along with the expectations from the world (Google, 2017).

Even though the group has a lot of stakeholders, but they can be group together on the basis of shared interests. The most crucial stakeholders include users, employees, customers and advertisers, investors, governments and the communities. The organizations and the individuals who use the products of the company are its users. Generally the users of Google are not required to pay for the use of its products like search engine or Chrome browser. Users are considered as stakeholders due to the usefulness of the products of the company (Harrison & Wicks, 2013). The popularity of the company is dependent on the usefulness of its products. This is the reason why the users are put at the top in the CSR efforts of the company. Even the philosophy of Google highlights this, as it dictates that the focus has to be on the users and everything else follows with the users (Polsky, 2014). The products are developed by keeping in mind the needs of the users, and so, Google effectively addresses the users as a stakeholder group (Scott, 2008).

How can Google respect privacy and still maintain its profitability?

Being the second priority of Google, the employees are also given importance as a stakeholder group. To maintain and address the interest of the employees of the company, Google provides fun workplace design and competitive compensation to its employees. The strategy regarding compensation includes high salary, along with benefits and incentives, for instance, flexible workflow and free meals (Hartmans, 2016). At the workplace of Google, the employees can play games, share ideas, are provided with homely environment and bean bags are installed (Brand, 2014). Due to these efforts of Google, it is considered as one of the best companies to work with. Moreover, the concerns regarding the employment practices, along with the occupational health and safety, of the employees of its suppliers, are addressed through the Google’s Supplier Code of Conduct (Google, 2017).

As the advertisers and consumers are what results in the revenue for the company (Schumann, Wangenheim & Groene, 2014). Google has implemented a holistic strategy consisting of CSR efforts concentrated upon this group. The more the popular the company is, the better are the chances of earning for the advertisers and enables Google in providing consumer specific products (Singh, 2016). So, by increasing the market reach of the company, along with its effectiveness, this stakeholder group is satisfied.

The CSR efforts of Google are focused on providing useful products for the company. And these satisfy not only the users, customers or advertisers, but also the investors of the company. Moreover, the strategies aimed at providing the consumer specific products have turned profitable for the company, which ultimately benefits the company (Goldfarb, 2014). Furthermore, by following good CSR policies, the company has been on the good side of the law. Even the philosophy of the company dictates that money can be made without doing evil. Google ensures that its business activities are compliant with the legal requirements and so, satisfies the interests of the governments as a stakeholder.

The last stakeholder group for Google is the communities. The CSR efforts of Google are comprised of charity programs. Google.org has been successful in providing over $100 million through investments and grants (Meyer, 2016). Google.org is aimed at addressing the issues like global poverty, climate change and global public health (Inside Philanthropy, 2017). The company also follows the international environmental standards, along with the ethics through the Supplier Code of Conduct. And these efforts are in line with the philosophy of Google. So, Google does satisfy all of its stakeholders by following the CSR practices as a strategy.

As highlighted in the very beginning of this discussion, Google has been often blamed for breaching the privacy of its users (NITRD, 2014). And even after all such allegations, the company is able to maintain its profitability, though the inflow of such accusations continues. Google is highly reliant on tracking of the data and information of its users so as to maintain its profitability, and this is where its huge stake in the privacy issue is highlighted (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2016). The company has been constantly working on the up-gradation of its privacy policy, so as to comply with the wants and needs of the users, especially with regards to the private information.

Google has revamped its privacy policy time and again. The 2012 change of the privacy policy combined the information gathered from the users of all of the Google services (Brodkin, 2012). The 2016 change in policy highlighted how the information is logged and what all is collected, along with the reasons for the same (Google, 2016). The change in policies highlighted that the users have the option of opting out of the collection of users’ data by turning off some features. Along with this, the company has clearly portrayed that the company remains deeply commuted with the privacy of the users.

As long as the company follows the commitment to privacy of user’s policy, the company can continue its profitability, provided there are no further issues implying the breach of the same. The users would be satisfied if their personal information remains secures and is not misused or leaked to the hackers (Tryfonas & Askoxylakis, 2014). If these issues can be kept separate, the company could maintain its profitability.

Another way of maintaining profitability for the company is by putting a price over the privacy (Sullivan, 2011). So, if the publishers want the users’ data, they could pay a price for it and access the data. But, this would mean that the privacy is sold by Google, which is a sheer breach of the privacy of its users. And so, Google avoids doing so. To continue making profits, the company specifically asks the users if their information can be used for the purpose of providing user specific information. This is how the company maintains the privacy of the users, along with making money through the advertisers, who provide such advertisements on the pages of users, which are related to them (Pingdom, 2010).

It is often quoted that this is indeed a breach of the privacy as the information is accessed by Google and the relevant advertisers are chosen to make money on the basis of preference of the users. To deal with such issues, Google has time and again taken permission from its users to allow the usage of their data (Google Developers, 2016). Moreover, the company only provides the preferences of users to the advertisers, and not their personal data. Such advertisers use the preferences for the ultimate benefit of the users only. So, there is no misuse of data, rather the user specific pages are provided to the user, so as to fulfill their requirements, which result in their continued use of Google’s services and products.

The tracking feature is advocated to be a violation of the right to privacy of the users, mostly because the users are unaware about this feature. But this information is crucial as only with this information can the phone tracking feature and location based network can be built, which allows Google to compete with its competitors effectively (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2016). Moreover, nearly all the apps need the location of the user to function properly. Also, this feature has been very helpful for the law enforcement. One can simply not forget that tracking is not uncommon, and even the mobiles are tracked through the service providers like Vodafone. So, blaming Google for this is unfair. And anyways, Google has added the do no track feature (Kaldveer, 2012).

One of the ways in which this issue can be addressed is to display each time that the user information is being used and the user is being tracked. But that would prove very cumbersome. So, the present manner of laying down the privacy policy for all of its users to see is the best way of making the users aware if there information can be used and how it can be used (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2016). Users already have the option of opting out of such information collecting task, but even then, they continue to be a part of Google services. Hardly any number of uses opt for options like do not track, as the users want specific information which is relevant to them. Any time a case for violation is brought forward; Google does address it, at its best.

The privacy audit is another manner through which Google has, and can continue to show that the information is not being misused (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2016). Due to the preferences of its users, Google uses some of the information, for which it does take permission from the users. And if it continues to do so, with proper disclosure, Google can maintain and even increase its profitability.

In this digital era, the need for the protection the privacy of the users is gaining a lot of importance, from not only the users but from the regulatory bodies as well. This is the reason why the regulatory bodies are constantly working on providing frameworks, in addition to the pre-existing legislations, to safeguard and protect the privacy of the users. And with the increase in digitalization, the regulations for privacy are growing globally (World Economic Forum, 2016). Such increase in the global regulation affects not only the users, but also the providers of such technological products and services, one of which is Google.

As has been highlighted earlier, Google’s operations have been diversified and are spread in nearly every nation. Being encompassed in such a vast number of countries, Google has to follow the regulations and norms followed in each of these nations, specifically pertaining to the laws related to privacy. The company is attacked not only in US, but in other nations too, for the lack of privacy. For instance, Google had to face an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission regarding the misrepresentation of its privacy practices to the general public. And to settle this, Google had to shell out $22.5 million (FTC, 2012). In 2010, Google was again accused of breaching the privacy, but this time, it was in UK (Lansdown & Scaife, 2017).

While the company was being investigated for the violation of global privacy policy by the European Union, one of the representatives of the company, Peter Fleischer, addressed the United Nations in France, stating the issues related to privacy and also highlighted the inadequacy of the global privacy policies in the protection of consumers (Johnson, 2007). The representative of Google proposed to the UN that instead of continuing with the enforcement of such ineffective and broken internet privacy laws, a global privacy policy was need, which could protect the privacy of the consumers in an efficient manner, and at the same time causing the least amount of negated impact over the browsers like Google (Fleischer, 2017).

The company has already faced a lot of backlash over its entrance into China. To enter China, Google had to permit the government to censor the searches of the users, which conflicted with the mantra of Google, “Don’t be evil”. Even though for a number of nations, government’s monitoring of data is a common parlance, but for US, it is a breach of the rights to privacy of the users. Despite this, Google decided to enter the Chinese market to price the greatest amount of information to the users, even though some of it might be censored. But even after doing so, the company faced difficulties with the Chinese authorities (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2016). Due to the repeated interference from the government, the operations of Google were deeply affected.

As the policies of the nations keep on changing and as the representative of Google has demanded a change in the global regulations for the protection of privacy of the users, it is a sure thing that the regulations would only increase (Fleischer, 2017). The pre-existing policies have resulted in a lot of issues for Google and with the rise in privacy policy globally, Google would have to adapt itself to the changes, which could prove to be cumbersome, but is necessary for its survival.

For instance, an adverse change in the global regulation of privacy, which makes it obligatory for Google to provide a monthly log of the data collected from its users to such user or to some regulatory body, would prove not only cumbersome, but would also reveal the vastness of the data that has been collected. Such a regulation could result in an increase in the number of litigations brought forward against the company for the collection of such data, for which the user had not specifically permitted.

And on the other hand, a favorable change in the global regulation or privacy, which allows Google to collect the data of the users from a particular region, due to some governmental issue, would open the channel for the use of such collected data by Google for the increase of its operations. But such a favorable change has lesser chances, whilst there is a high change of an adverse policy being implemented. And so, the policies would dictate its affect over the operations of Google.

It is said that the past repeats itself, and if the cases highlighted above are any indication, the increase in the global regulation of privacy is surely going to affect the operations of Google.

Conclusion

The above analysis has highlighted the various aspects of Google, including its stakeholders and the issues regarding the privacy laws. Google is a vast company and its operations are spread across the globe. The company offers a huge range of products and services, which are used on day to day basis by a lot of people. Due to this vastness of its operations, the company has a number of stakeholders, which include the users, employees, advertisers or customers, investors, government and communities.

The first segment of discussion highlighted how the company addresses the needs of its stakeholders. By following a single strategy of implementing the CSR practices, Google has been successful in serving all of its stakeholders. Moreover, the philosophy and motto of the company are in line with its CSR policies, which help the company in serving the requirements of its stakeholders and keeping them happy. For instance, to keep the employees of the company happy, Google provides them a very comfortable and flexible environment, where the employees can play games or even work by sitting over bean bags. The CSR policies regarding the charities which the company undertakes, helps in fulfilling its obligations towards the communities, as a stakeholder group.

Time and again the company has faced issues relating to privacy laws, but the company has been able to maintain its policy by keeping the consumers informed of the information that is being used and giving them the option to opt out of the same. Moreover, the company focuses on users first and this allows the profits to follow. But, the increasing global regulation of privacy affects the operations of Google, for which the company remains prepared. As Google has already dealt with such issues in the past, the company is aware about such possible changes. Moreover, Google is focused on following the laws, as a part of its CSR activities, so any future changes, even though adverse, would be followed by Google. To conclude this discussion, Google is indeed an ethics based corporation and is a good corporate citizen.

References

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