Is Google Evil? Grad Student Alison Veith Determines to Find Out

Tuesday, January 05, 2016
Photo of Alison Veith in front of computer screen

Is Google evil? That’s the question Women and Gender Studies graduate student Alison Veith is asking with her thesis project. “‘Don’t be Evil’: Google’s Labor, Technology and the Limits of Corporate Good” has been nominated for the Western Association of Graduate Schools competition, which recognizes distinguished scholarly achievement at the Master’s level.

Veith’s thesis looks at the impact of Google and other tech companies on the Bay Area’s economy and culture. She was particularly interested in the labor structure for Google’s contract laborers, which often offer less financial incentives and less job security than more visible tech and engineering positions.

“[The project] is not an attempt to say [Google] is the problem,” Veith says. “Rather, this is what’s happening and we’re all involved, vulnerable and interconnected in it.”

A Bay Area native, Veith became interested in the project after witnessing the rapidly increasing displacement of longtime residents. She pored over employee memoirs, conducted interviews, employee demographics, public information about Google, news reports and speculative film.

In the course of her research she also noticed a link between the rise of the “sharing economy,” which essentially outsources hospitality positions to independent contractors, and the contract work for positions such as bus drivers, security and similar positions at tech companies like Google. The impact this kind of contracting has on working-class families in the Bay Area is a continued research interest of hers.

Veith hopes to continue her research in a Ph.D. program. Her long-term goal is to be a professor. She also intends to publish her thesis or parts of it in the near future.

Another student, Trevor Myers, a Master of Arts candidate in Industrial Arts, has also been nominated for the Western Association of Graduate Schools competition in the Biological Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Life Sciences and Engineering category for his project, “Improving the Eye-Drop Experience.” Winners will be announced in the spring.

—Lynn Brown


Photo by Hannah Anderson

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