Companies are not people – to think so is dangerous

One of the things that concerns me most with our society and legal system is not copyright law, it’s not patent law, it’s not our overcrowded jails, … it’s how we treat companies as people. Not only do our laws treat companies like people, but as people tend to do, we anthropomorphize companies. Companies are not people and we cannot expect them to behave like people.

It worries me when people attribute good or bad intentions to companies. Such as when Matt Asay points out the pitfalls in Google’s Chrome license and then says (I added the bold):

My concern is that this language is so broad that Google could, if it
were so inclined, invade user privacy on a grand scale. The terms of
service allow it. Only Google’s best intentions prevent it.

I also believe that Google’s current management has no intentions to do evil things with the data that Chrome gathers. But Google will own the copyright to all that data, and Google is a publicly traded company. Which means that Google can be bought. And no, that’s not bought like a person’s loyalty can be bought. That would be anthropomorphizing. Google could be literally bought – everything they own, including that personal data, could be sold, for money, to the highest bidder. And all that personal data would be owned by somebody else – or some thing else. And they might feel like they had a right to use it since they paid for it. They (if they is a company) might even have a legal obligation to their shareholders to use that data to make money.

So speaking of companies as people, with intentions, with goals, as good or evil, is a very dangerous way to think.

Companies are not evil. They are also not human beings. They can do great good or great evil … but not for the same reasons that you might do great good or great evil.