I often say that Google's corporate motto "do no evil" is more a public relations stunt than anything. After all, Google is a for profit, publicly traded, corporation with a legal obligation to make as much money for it's share holders as possible without breaking the law. While the idea of "do no evil" is a great one, there are many many areas of gray that live within that statement.
We struggle with the gray areas every day in the SEO fields. As our SEO resellers approach us with ideas about how to get ahead in the rankings we are constantly defining our own version of "do no evil" here at Semify. And in the SEO community, this is a difficult mission to fulfill given all the miss-information and confusion about SEO.
Google's business model is much more straight forward. They collect all the data from every website in the world and then help you organize it. They give this to you, the end-user, for free in the form of a search engine portal in return for the rights to also show you advertisements. And while most people you talk to say "I NEVER click on those ads on the right hand side of Google," they made 20 billion dollars last year from those Internet ads "nobody clicks on." Obviously, many people click on the ads in the search engines.
The place where the Google motto becomes a problem is when they start censoring their search results (see here for references). Believe it or not, this is what they agreed to in China a few years ago. The Chinese government is so sensitive about anti-China materials that Google had to agree NOT to allow certain material in their search engine. They recently (today I think) decided that they would no longer censor search results and are open to the fact that this means they may not be able to make money in China. Interesting how this has pulled the Obama administration into the fray. Hillary Clinton seized the moment to make some noise about China's human rights and censorship record. But back on point, for the several years that Google was censoring, should that be considered "doing evil." I don't know. And I'm not taking one position or another. The point I am making is that their corporate motto is silly - as things in the business world are rarely that black and white.
Side point: And they say that the Internet has not changed life that much. To think, Google is now at the center of a economic / political issue that get's the attention of the White House.