Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Google is being incredulously disingenuous with its latest homepage campaign. You should be outraged.

I don't normally blog on this blog, mostly because I haven't quite figured out what to do with it.  At least until today.  Now I know - take large companies to task for things the general public won't be outraged about but should be.

Google frequently puts things onto its homepage that get a lot of attention and traffic.  Today, I woke up and found a link that says, "'Tis the season. Google supports organizations that are changing the world."  I clicked the link and read through the text on the page:

"At Google, philanthropy is a core value. This year we gave more than $100 million to various organizations around the world -- including $40 million in grants that celebrate the giving season by supporting four causes that we consider particularly important: science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education; girls' education; empowerment through technology; and fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
We invite you to celebrate the giving season along with us by learning about these organizations, the great work they're doing, and how you can support them."

Only $100 million?  And, if you look at where they clearly spend the money and do even a modest amount of research, you can quickly pick out where Google's heart actually is.  So, let's do some math:

First, Google made $8.5 billion in profit last year.  Even if they only made half that this year, that is $4 billion.  Most of us can't fathom what that even looks like.  $100 million is a drop in that bucket or somewhere between 1.1% to 2.5%.  Again, a number most of us can't fathom.  But, put in perspective, this is only barely philanthropic - if that term can even be used.

But now let's compare that to one of the most generous charitable organizations in the world:  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Suspiciously started right around the same time the two got married as the Bill Gates Foundation, I'm pretty sure Melinda is the reason for the organization's existence (Bill Gates brought the money, Melinda brought the heart).  The organization is required, by law, to give $1.5 billion annually, aka 5%, to maintain their charitable status.  Notice, I don't use the word philanthropy here either but I consider this far closer to philanthropy than Google's pathetic attempt at it.

Alright, now let's move onto a different angle:  The organizations supported.  There are really only three groups:  Technology/Science, Educating girls on AIDS/HIV, and Slavery.  The majority of the focus of funding is clearly the first group with the latter two as an apparent afterthought.  Of the three groups, there is only one that actually matters in this world and it is the last one in the list.  Google says they will free 12,000 slaves this year.  At the same time, Google is clearly thinking, "Slaves build our technology cheaply, so why should we free them?"  And the girls end up getting AIDS/HIV due to poor conditions that will, in many cases, be a result of slavery (even if it is of a mental slavery variety).

AIDS/HIV is just one of several rather nasty infectious diseases.  Google had the opportunity to "diversify their portfolio" and target Cholera, Typhoid fever, other Diarrhoeal diseases, Tuberculosis (#2 killer infectious disease), Malaria (#3 killer infectious disease), and Influenza.  But Google only went for the politically-charged disease.

There are 27 million slaves in the world constructing our cozy lifestyle.  That coffee you are drinking as you read this was probably created with child slave labor (unless you paid $8+/lb for real "Fair Trade" coffee).  Or maybe you just took a bite out of a piece of chocolate - feel free to imagine that the bitterness comes from a different child's tears in miserable conditions after having been taken from their family for mere pennies (if even that).  12,000 slaves freed is a pathetic 0.04%.  Google clearly isn't interested in freeing slaves other than to look good.  Now you too see through the facade.  Ironically, we are still slave owners and violating the original goals behind the 13th Amendment - we've merely and conveniently moved our slaves to other countries and a couple of management levels down - so nothing has changed - out of sight, out of mind, but at what cost?

I support organizations that make a real, lasting difference in our world.  I do my own research to find organizations with low overhead (roughly 10% - any lower and there is trouble - too much higher and there will be inefficiencies), have a solid, well-communicated strategy that makes sense and scales well, the strategy is cost-efficient and will last multiple lifetimes (i.e. no repeating), and matches what my heart tells me is the right thing to do.  If Google truly cared, they would look for organizations that solve real problems by looking at the root cause of the problems and finding organizations that have identified the same root cause and have a working solution in place that meets similar criteria.

While I don't have the financial means to give $100 million, I also don't make a big fuss about my giving either nor attempt to mislead people by saying I'm philanthropic (I'm not).  It is great Google gives a small portion of their money to improve some people's lives but they aren't philanthropic.  This is a clever, calculated business venture.  I don't see anything more than that and neither should you.

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