Google's Schmidt thought 'don't be evil' was a stupid rule
13th May 2013 | 20:39
Google chair lets loose in latest interview
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt isn't one to shy away from talking to the public about his ideas of the role technology will play in the future, or being as frank as he can about Google's dominance of the mobile marketplace.
Currently, Schmidt is touring to promote his book The New Digital Age (co-authored with Jared Cohen), and stopped by NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! show to chat about the publication and whatever else happened to come up.
While Schmidt has presented himself as a reserved yet strongly opinionated man on topics like drone strikes in the past, he had no trouble loosening his tie and playing around with host Peter Sagal.
During the casual chat, Schmidt joked about his access to private user data, and even claimed he thought one of Google's core foundations was "the stupidest rule ever."
Don't give a Schmidt
When Google originated, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the slogan "Don't be evil" as a way to provide a moral compass of sorts for the company's employees.
Any member of the team could thereby offer a negative vote if he or she thought a project was trending towards "evil" or was morally objectionable.
"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,'" Schmidt said.
"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."
After some time though, Schmidt began to see how the rule could work, as it provided a simple way for employees to point out potentially unethical practices.
Schmidt must have been recalling the Golden Rule when asked by Sagan if there was any time he felt like peering into the emails of any number of Google users.
"If you wanted to, could you just flip a switch on your office computer and just, like, read my emails just for the hell of it?" Sagan asked.
"Yes, and I would lose my job, be fired and be sued to death," Schmidt retorted jokingly.
When asked how anyone would find out if Schmidt kept his mouth shut, he simply replied, "Someone would find out. Trust me."