Wow, Google's corporate pledge to "do no evil" doesn't seem to just be a token expression. They really are conducting business with a conscience, and crazily, none of it seems to be at odds with the desire to turn a profit. Today, there were not one, but two stories of Google over at BoingBoing taking a stand for what's right.
The first was the revelation that the Bush administration asked major search engines to turn over the search queries of all their visitors over a one-week period. (Not the search queries of suspected terrorists or child pornographers - yours, mine, your neighbor's, your mother's. Average American citizens.) Out of the four search engines queried (that we know of), three search engines simply rolled over and handed them the searches their visitors made: Yahoo, AOL, and MSN. (This last one should not be too surprising, since Microsoft even cooperates with the Chinese government to "out" Chinese bloggers critical of police massacres.) Google, on the other hand, has gone so far as to refuse to comply with the subpoena. There are business-related reasons for doing so, such as the fact the results could be valuable for corporate espionage, but all in all, I'm impressed they'll go head-to-head with the Bush administration to maintain their users' privacy.
The second story is about Google flatly refusing to pay "protection" to BellSouth, who basically is trying to leverage its position as an Internet provider to extort money out of corparate sites by having them bid to ensure their site loads faster than the competition. Google refused to play along, and said "Do your worst!" Again, there are business reasons to do this - if they pay up, they'll find themselves being shaken down by every ISP in the nation. But again, it's the right thing to do morally, too - the only way BellSouth could ensure that Yahoo loads faster than Google would be to purposely interfere with Google's traffic by scanning packets as they come through their Internet backbone and slowing them down. If that's not illegal, it should be. It's certainly unethical.
So it's looking like Google is a lot like Ben and Jerry's in their synergy between what's right and what's profitable. Let's hope it keeps up, because while that synergy remains, we're all better off.