Following the corporate reshuffle at Google, the world’s largest search firm is now owned by a holding company called “Alphabet” – which, confusingly, was temporarily a subsidiary of Google but then executed a “reverse takeover” of its parent company to become the new boss, at which point Google spun off a number of its own subsidiaries such as its life sciences subsidiary Calico and “moonshot” division X to sit under Alphabet.
The end result is that the Google we all know and love still exists, but sits under an entirely new company, with a new name, new brand, new website – and new ethics policy.
When Alphabet was revealed, it was made clear that Google’s pre-existing ethics policy would only apply to the search firm itself, rather than its parent company. But now that Alphabet has revealed its own Code of Conduct, and the words “don’t be evil” are nowhere in sight.
Instead, the holding company has a rather less pithy set of requirements for its employees, including “avoid conflicts of interest”, “ensure financial integrity and responsibility” and “obey the law”.
That means that Google’s own companies, including YouTube and Android, are still run with a code of conduct that includes the command “don’t be evil” (as well as the less well-known statement that “we like cats, but we’re a dog company”), while the companies that sit directly under Alphabet aren’t.
Alphabet’s other subsidiaries such as X, the division in charge of the company’s balloon-powered internet drone delivery projects, will still have the ability to set their own codes of conduct, just as Google itself has. But the company itself leads on the highly catchy requirement that “Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries … should do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.”
It isn’t the first time Google has downgraded “don’t be evil” in its internal communications. In 2009, the company quietly dropped the line from “motto” to “mantra”, as part of a rebranding of its corporate PR – a far cry from the early noughties, where the phrase had even been included in the company’s 2004 intial public offering.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th October 2015 12.24 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010