Published on May 4, 2020
The coronavirus gives Alphabet an opportunity to remove doubts about its corporate character and reinforce its brand purpose. Google’s effort to enable mobile contact tracing has magnified concerns that have been brewing for years about data privacy and search engine integrity.
As we found in the extensive survey at the heart of The Purpose Report 2020, there is still widespread optimism among consumers that technology is changing life and society for the better (82%), but also general agreement that tech companies, especially social media companies, need to work together to ensure data privacy (84%) and to protect the integrity of public discourse by controlling fake news, fake accounts and factual inaccuracies (81%) through their platforms.
Alphabet was one of the fastest corporations to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 10, it sent home more than 100,000 North American workers. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, expressed concerns for all employees in a companywide internal email sent in early March, as well as a call to action on Google’s business purpose to make information accessible and useful: “It’s important that we contribute to fulfill our mission and be helpful to people in these uncertain times. Because of the work we do every day, Google has an important role to play right now.”
Pichai has also been at the forefront of Alphabet’s public response to COVID-19. During Alphabet’s first quarter earnings call on April 28, Pichai’s comments melded an emotional message with a data-focused response to the crisis, as well as looking to the future: “Ultimately, we’ll see a long-term acceleration of movement from businesses to digital services, including increased online work, education, medicine, shopping and entertainment. These changes will be significant and lasting.” Pichai also detailed Alphabet’s three core contributions to the fight against COVID-19:
In a departure from most industry leaders, Pichai has also addressed how Big Tech as a whole should respond to COVID-19. He helped orchestrate a rare partnership with Apple on technology sharing and, in an interview with Time magazine, trumpeted the need for tech companies to collaborate: “When I talk to other leaders, there is a clear sense that this is something larger than all of us.”
Google is the core of Alphabet’s business and Google is, first and foremost a search engine. Providing useful, accurate information is its bedrock corporate purpose, and it has moved to modify its search functionality to support the fight against COVID-19:
Google has also partnered with fellow tech giant Apple to facilitate greater platform interoperability to support easier communication and search in this time of crisis:
Alphabet and its subsidiaries have undertaken initiatives to support communities and pledged significant financial resources to people and communities impacted by COVID-19:
Alphabet and its subsidiaries have also undertaken a number of initiatives to facilitate the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and support testing efforts:
Through Google and YouTube, Alphabet has addressed disruption to the educational system, providing several free distance learning resources:
Google was quick to adopt protocols to protect workers in the office and facilitate work from home to maintain social distance and effective quarantine:
Pichai recently started discussing plans for bringing people back to work. In an April 27 email to employees Pichai discussed Alphabet’s approach to returning to the office: “Not everyone at a site will go back at once … guidance will vary from location to location.”
Alphabet has informational tools to help users better educate and inform themselves about COVID-19 and what they can do to keep themselves, their loved ones, and their communities safe:
Alphabet as a whole and Google in particular have worked to protect users from false and misleading information, a vital function for a company whose business purpose is to provide accurate information to everyone, and which has explicitly adopted “Don’t be evil” and “Do the right thing” as purpose-driven mottos.
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