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Ethical Standards and Actions of Major Internet Companies

Task:Research and Write a Business Report that Addresses the Question:

‘How Ethical are Major Internet Companies?’

Methodology:

Write a Business report with the following report headings and content:

  • ‘Introduction’
    • Briefly describe that you are going to report on the ethical standards and actions of the following major internet companies:
      • Google
      • Microsoft
      • Apple
      • Facebook
  • You will do this by conducting a short survey, locating and summarizing the company’s Ethical and/or Code of Conduct policies, comparing their ethical policies with their actions, and drawing some conclusions about their ethical behaviour.


  • ‘What do People Think?’
    • Survey 10 people and ask: How ethical do you think each of the following companies is?
    • Rate the answers from 1-10 (totally unethical to completely ethical)
    • Report the average result for each company in a table
    • Report your own initial ethical rating of the same companies


  • ‘Ethical/Code of Conduct Policies’
    • Locate the ethical policy/code of conduct for each company
    • Suggestion: Search <company name> ethics policy or code of conduct
    • Write a brief summary of the policy
    • Briefly describe how each compare to the policy statements of the others? Longest/shortest, easiest to read/full of air, strongest stand/weakest, etc.


  • ‘Ethical Behaviour’
    •  Locate and briefly describe any reports of unethical conduct by the companies (maximum 3).
    • Suggestion: Search <company name> unethical
    • Do these reports match the companies’ policies?
  • ‘Australian Tax’
    • Locate reports of the tax paid in Australia by the companies
    • Do these companies pay a fair share of tax in Australia?


  • ‘Summary’
    • Are the companies as ethical as they claim?
    • Are some companies better than others?
    • Do you have any recommendations for better ethical behaviour?
    • Having done the research, what is you final ethical rating for the companies

Answer

BUSINESS REPORT: ANALYSIS OF ETHICS IN MAJOR INTERNET COMPANIES


Google 

OptionsNo of respondents Average rating My rating 
Ethical standards 1067
Relation with employees 107
Catering value to customers 106
Maintenance of confidentiality 108
Legal compliances 105.5

Table 1: Survey answer

(Source: created by the author)

According to google.com (2018), the ethical standards of Google include huge value to the people and employees. The values and principles stated to be important by Google are needed to be abided by each of the employees and board of directors of Google. The users of Google form the crux of the company and therefore, they are the most important pillars of the company. The company ensures that they are receiving the best facility of the company. In order to gain the trust of the users, the company regularly communicates with them at frequent intervals. One of the core factors that Google pays attention to in terms of the customers is the maintenance of their private data and confidentiality. As opined by google.com (2018), the company has appointed officials who restrict the invasion of data about a person by other people. Therefore, people are only allowed to access their personal data in Google. Along with that, legal compliances is also an important factor that the company follows. In compliance with the government, the company readily removes any content that has seemed to be inappropriate by the government. As far as the employees of the company are concerned, Google provides equal opportunities to all people in terms of gaining employment in the company. Google ensures that there is no discrimination of the employees within the office premises and also there are no equipments which shall harm the employees at their workplace. 

Although Google follows a strict set of ethical standards, it has faced a scandalous issue in the past year. In the year 2016, it was reported by The Guardian (2018), that a total of 60 employees working at Google filed a legal lawsuit against the company claiming inequalities among payments between males and females. Thus, it can be clearly seen from this that Google does not provide equal employment opportunities to all. In the previous section, it has been mentioned that Google refrain from any form of internal discrimination of employees. However, in the scandal it is not evidenced and thus, it can be stated that it has breached ethical code of conduct. The tax avoidance issue that Google indulged into recently is avoidance by $6 billion. As studied by smh.com.au (2018), the Australian government has found out that Google was invading tax by conducting advertisement procedures with Facebook in Singapore. In the opinion of smh.com.au (2018), one of the core areas of ethical standards of a company is legal compliance which is associated with payment of tax. However, the breaching of the tax due to conduction of advertisement operations in Singapore is an ethical breach by Google. 

Microsoft

OptionsNo of respondents Average rating My rating 
Ethical standards 108.57.6
Relation with employees 106.97.2
Catering value to customers 107.28
Maintenance of confidentiality 107.57
Legal compliances 1087.5 

Table 2: Survey of Microsoft

(Source: created by the author)

The code of ethics of Microsoft includes sharing value to the people it is associated with. As stated by microsoft.com (2018), the employees who work with Microsoft are catered with integrity and honesty. The employees at the company need to work with honesty and must always abide by their responsibilities and roles that they have in the company. The employees need to work in a way, so as to, meet the needs of the consumers and catering them well effective services and facilities. The International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP) are the group of organizations who are allowed to have access to the data and information stores in database of Microsoft. The task to safeguard the intellectual property of Microsoft is entrusted with these organizations. Therefore, as influenced by microsoft.com (2018), it can be stated in this context that the safeguard and protection of intellectual property of Microsoft is one of the core aspects of the ethical principles of the company. The compliance group in Microsoft is entrusted with looking after the ethics and legal policy frameworks of the company. This sector is headed by the President and the Chief legal officer. One of the internal ethical codes of conduct of the company is to ensure that the audit committee is working effectively and with integrity. According to microsoft.com (2018), the role of the audit committee is to present authentic financial data to the compliance department on the basis of which the important decisions of the company shall be taken. 

However, despite the strict code of ethics of Microsoft and an efficient team of compliance committee, the company has lately shifted some of its revenue to other countries. According to Seattle Times (2018), the gaining of revenue by a company results in the payment of taxes on the basis of that revenue. However, Microsoft made some misleading information in its revenue collection by shifting an amount of $1.8 billion to its headquarter Singapore. Therefore, in this regard, it can be primarily stated that the breach of ethics has been done by the Compliance committee. The audit committee is entrusted under the compliance committee and their role is to present authentic financial data in the business process. However, they provided incorrect information which resulted in the misleading information in the company’s financial book. The tax avoidance issue of Microsoft includes settling with the Taxation department of Australia worth million hundred of dollars. As reported by Seattle Times (2018), Daniel Goff, the Vice president of tax asked the taxation committee in Australia to make an investigation after which it has been found out that there were settlements between Microsoft and Australian taxation committee to evade tax. However, after this incident, the company had to face financial issues as a total of $447 million was imposed on the company for breaching tax. 

Apple

OptionsNo of respondents Average rating My rating 
Ethical standards 107.56
Relation with employees 107.27
Catering value to customers 105.16
Maintenance of confidentiality 107.57.2
Legal compliances 1067.6 

Table 3: Survey of Apple

(Source: created by the author)

The primary code of ethics of Apple is to ensure that it is putting less impact on the external environment with its production process. Thus, according to google.com (2018), the suppliers associated with Apple are directed in a way, so as to; exert a positive impact on the environment and to curb out the negative impact through the production process of the company. This is done because customers are hugely important to the company and therefore, the company works towards the maintenance of their health and safety. The suppliers are always guided to perform in ethical way in areas wherever they perform their business activities on behalf of the company. As opined by google.com (2018), the crux of Apple’s code of ethics lays in social and environment conduct. Through the implication of social conduct, the company ensures the well being of the lives of the people associated with it. It ensures that its employees are not facing any financial adversity in the company. It is also ensures that the consumers of the company live within a basic social standard. All the leading suppliers of Apple are entrusted to abide by the aforementioned norms and any misconduct of the ethical standard shall result in the loss of relationship between Apple and its suppliers. Along with that, as mentioned by google.com (2018), Apple has effectively integrated human and labor rights to provide to all its employees. The company does not indulge into any form of discrimination against its employees and all are treated equally within the workplace premises. Furthermore, the employees avail equal opportunities and the company always works towards curbing trafficking of the labors and employees that it works with. 

The code of ethics of Apple includes providing value and fairness to the customers. However, one ethical issue that Apple has come up with recently is to repair the faulty phones through a third party. According to The Guardian (2018), the Australian consumer laws states that consumers have the right to get repair of any faulty phones or equipments that they buy from a company. Primarily, the first ethical breach of Apple is the selling of faulty phones. Secondly, it was repairing the phones through third party who were not authorized repairing agents of the company. Therefore, this was somehow cheating with the customers. Due to this factor, a total of AUS$9 million was imposed on the company. Unlike other internet companies, Apple has complied with the Australian law and has paid off all its due taxes at timely intervals. As reported by The Guardian (2018), the tax paid by Apple was $85 million on revenue of $8 billion. Thus, it can be witnessed in this context that Apple has complied with its ethical standards and has not indulged into any form of illegal tax avoidance. 

Facebook 

OptionsNo of respondents Average rating My rating 
Ethical standards 1088
Relation with employees 1067
Catering value to customers 106.58
Maintenance of confidentiality 1076.2
Legal compliances 107.5

Table 3: Survey of Facebook

(Source: created by the author)

Owing to the fact that Facebook has information of a majority of the people all across the world, the maintenance of the privacy and confidentiality of the people is one of the core aspects of the code of ethics followed by Facebook. As mentioned by Facebook.com (2018), the company has made it mandatory for the employees to deal with the private information of the people on Facebook with extreme sensitivity. In order to avoid the risk of invasion of personal information, the company has ensured the limitation of number of people on the accessibility of data. In the opinion of Facebook.com (2018), there is private information of the people on Facebook which shall pose a serious threat to the privacy of people. Henceforth, the company always ensures that there is safety and satisfaction of the customers who are associated with Facebook. The company shall readily take steps from any instances which have obscene objects in them. Moreover, it shall also take steps for defaming any person or providing incorrect information in terms of his identity. Furthermore, according to Facebook.com (2018), Facebook also stands against any form of threatening to people’s lives or carrying out vulgar language against any person on it. 

Despite the hard endeavor of Facebook to work ethically and protect the private data of people, it has faced a recent issue which is associated with the breach of contract due to invasion of people’s personal data. As stated by Cnbc.com (2018), the incident is associated with Cambridge Analytica where the private information of the people has been evaded by people and was accessible to a majority of people. The people who use Facebook have a trust on it regarding the maintenance of their privacy and henceforth, the incident has resulted in the loss of their confidence. The reason for which the incident took place was because of the use of the app through Facebook which would provide them information. However, as soon as the user would log in to the app, his personal data would get collected, thereby, creating a threat to his personal data on the device. As far as incidents of tax avoidance of Facebook are concerned, it has evaded a sum of AUS 31 million with the Australian taxation department (Cnbc.com, 2018). Thus, this is evident of the tax breach of the company. 

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