Google's Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, has revealed his opinion on Google's famous 'Don't Be Evil' motto in an interview on NPR, stating that when he arrived at the company it was "the stupidest rule ever" as "there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something". The motto, invented by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin (according to Schmidt), was intended to keep Google as an ethical company, although it often caused issues.
Well, it was invented by Larry and Sergey. And the idea was that we don't quite know what evil is, but if we have a rule that says don't be evil, then employees can say, I think that's evil. Now, when I showed up, I thought this was the stupidest rule ever, because there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something.
So what happens is, I'm sitting in this meeting, and we're having this debate about an advertising product. And one of the engineers pounds his fists on the table and says, that's evil. And then the whole conversation stops, everyone goes into conniptions, and eventually we stopped the project. So it did work.
Schmidt was also quizzed on whether it was possible to "flick a switch" and have a screen at their Mountain View headquarters read someone's emails, and while Schmidt admitted it was technically possible, if he ever did that, he said "I would lose my job, be fired, and be sued to death". He also joked that while he doesn't have Google hardwired in his brain, he does have a browser up there: "I'm running Chrome, you know".
Despite Schimdt's eventually warming to the idea of 'Don't Be Evil', Google has often been criticized for their unofficial motto, including by Microsoft in their infamous 'Scroogled' campaign that saw Gmail's privacy and advertisement policy slammed publicly. As NPR host Peter Sagal jokingly alluded to, not being evil will "never work in American business".
Editor's Note: The article has been updated to show the full quote, which was originally shortened for length reasons but adversely affected the context.