You can tell a lot about a company by the mission statement. Most focus on quality products and services. Some, like Ben & Jerry, look for the greater good in linked prosperity. And, then there is Google…

You know you are in trouble when a code of conduct begins with “don’t be evil.” After all, who needs that reminder? People who choose to do what’s right even when it’s inconvenient rarely need a note telling them to avoid the dark side. It is built into their DNA.

But, when you read Google’s corporate code of conduct, there it is, the first three words of the preface. If you skip over that part, you’ll find a slightly different version in their philosophy. Core principle number six is “You can make money without being evil.”

Maybe you can, but Google is asking you to sell your soul with Google Plus.

Those of you who regularly read my blog know that periodically I review new tools and platforms. Sharing things that make life and business better is one of those things I love to do. Last week, I decided to give Google Plus a test run*. The chatter around the Twitterverse and blogging world focused on Google’s chances to unseat Facebook as the leading social platform of the world. I was more interested in whether it was a viable tool for my clients.

Part of the sign up process requires accepting the terms of service. (TOS) This is standard for all tools, platforms, and software. People have become so accustomed to clicking the “I accept” buttons that they rarely read the accompanying documents. The process of checking a box and agreeing to the terms seems benign. Usually, the TOS is a document designed to protect the company from frivolous lawsuits. Google is different.

Google wants to own your creative assets in return for allowing you to use Google Plus.

Checking the box and accepting the terms of service means that you agree to (emphasis mine):

“By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

 

You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.”

 

While I am not a lawyer, there are some terms easily understood in this document beginning with “give Google”. My translation is quite simple – Google gets to control how your content is distributed, alter it as they see fit, and sell it as part of their syndicated services without monetary compensation. Indentured servitude to a search engine isn’t part of my dream job. How about you?

One of the cool features of Google Plus is the ability to select which “circle” of people get your messages. This functionality allows you to manage personal and professional connections without sharing everything with everyone. The platform is a better tool than Facebook and LinkedIn for managing real life relationships but there is that TOS issue to consider. Imagine that you have a circle for your team members working on a revolutionary new product. Before it is ready to launch, Google shares the details with the world and your biggest competitor beats you to market with YOUR product. And, they do it with your permission because you sold your soul to Google for the right to use Google Plus.

What happened to “Don’t be evil?”

* A special thank you to Clark Mackey for the invitation to join Google Plus