However a good thing done for the wrong reasons is still a good thing.
Agreed, and I try not to be too hard on them. I don't think it's a black and white issue personally, the only issue I have is how this implies Google always wants to do the right thing from the get go, which very much seems to not be the case here.
But Google has no intention of doing the right thing anymore than Microsoft or Disney does. These are corporations and their executives HAVE to do what they think will be best for the corporation. Not what they think is best for mankind.
This is how for profit businesses currently work. And PR saying anything to the contrary is simply not true.
Corporations are run by people with a complex set of motivations and constraints in which they make decisions. Some of them make decisions with intent to harm. Some make decisions with intent to help.
No one person is automatically turned into a ruthless amoral person just be being employed at a corporation.
They can quit. They can speak out. They can organize. They can petition for change. They could join the more ethical competition (if one exists), or start their own.
This is especially easy to do for employees of a company like Google, with excellent job prospects and often enough "fuck you money" to do whatever they want without serious financial hardship.
They are not hopelessly chained to the corporate profit machine. They can revolt -- that is, if their morals are important enough to them. Otherwise they can stay on and try not to rock the boat, or pretend they don't know or are helpless to act.
A handful of Google employees chose to act and publicly express their objections. This action got results. More employees in companies which act unethically should follow their lead.
Ultimately, though, I agree with zaphar that you are overgeneralizing, since corporations are controlled by humans -- executives, other employees, and shareholders -- and human motivations can be complex.
I'd say it is definitely better than not doing a good thing. For me, the real question is this though: considering there is a pattern here (doing the right thing after doing the wrong thing), do you trust they will do the right thing in the first place next time?
Yes, but we should absolutely remember what the original intention was.
Imagine I wanted to have somebody killed and I hired a hitman to kill them and when I go to pay the hitman I accidentally wire the money to the wrong place and inadvertantly pay off the victims mortgage instead of paying the hitman. Now the victim doesn't die and gets their mortgage paid off. I'm not a good guy what I did is not a good thing, I just fucked up, that's all. Had everything gone to plan the guy would be dead and I would be blameless.
Similarly if everything had gone to plan Google AI would now be powering various autonomous murder bots except they realized that they didn't want to be associated with this, not because they have any morals, but because WE DO. They are still bad.
That's an odd analogy considering the the would-be conspirator didn't make a decision to not go through with it. Do you believe Google published this article by accident? And really; comparing Google's actions to murder... c'mon.
They didn't fess up because they realize that the outcome of their actions woudl be bad, they fess up because YOU realize that the outcome of their actions would be bad.
you think people weren't/wouldn't be killed off intel gathered from the project?
You can speculate about their motives, I personally beleive it to be PR motivated aswell, but what matters in the end is that it stopped happening.