Posted June 2, 2008 9:35 am by with 20 comments

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I’d like to think that I live my life by a mantra similar to Google’s “don’t be evil.” Mine is the Golden Rule; “Treat others the way you’d wish to be treated.”

Still, being nice doesn’t mean being naive. I know most of the black-hat techniques, sneaky manipulation tactics, and, if I ever stooped that low, I would know that when you tell tales on one of your competitors, you must remove your fingerprints. Unfortunately, Google missed the “corporate sabotage 101” class in Evil School.

It appears an anonymous submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)–opposing eBay’s exclusive deal with PayPal–might have been authored by Google.

Google’s involvement was uncovered when Australian reader David Bromage posted a comment on the blog featuring metadata remnants extracted from the document — which was previously available on the ACCC’s website but has now been removed — indicating it was written and sent by the search giant.

“It wasn’t difficult to work out who wrote the submission,” he said in the post. “Buried down in the metadata you find … Microsoft Word – 204481916_1_ACCC Submission by Google re eBay Public _2_.DOC.”

If you’re not familiar with metadata, it’s not that hard to find in a document–typically in the “properties” menu.

Failing to remove that information–when you’re trying to be anonymous–is a rookie mistake. Unless, of course, it was left in as an “easter egg.” Think about it, an anonymous objection doesn’t have much bite to it, but one that you can (easily) track back to Google? That makes the submission more interesting. 😉

(Dr, Evil image credit:

  • D’oh!
    but the concept that it might be an ‘easter egg’ does make the whole thing more interesting…
    I wonder what noise is coming from inside Google; evil cackling or a muffled shot of someone being fired…

  • Dean

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • Devious, very devious indeed, unless they left it to some cockroach to do!

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  • Hmmm… I find the whole thing questionable. And believe me, I am all for making Google do some evil. or some stupid. However:
    1. The source is questionable.
    2. Before announcing the metadata issue did they track the ip? Someone dumb enough to leave metadata in a doc is dumb enough to forget to use and anonymizer.
    3. If the Green River Killer could cover his digital tracks for years, I think Google could do it.
    4. If Google wanted people to know they opposed the paypal relationship – why didn’t they just get one of their super attorneys to really do it right.

  • @REBG – I hear ya. It would be truly amazing that Google slipped-up here. Besides, it’s easy to copy over the meta data to another document. For example, if I open a document I received from Google, deleted all of the content, then added all new text–the doc would still have the original meta data.

  • Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me. In this bloggers humble opinion there are many other questionable tactics Google has demonstated. When the stakes are this high the business world is cold and calculated.

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  • Eric

    What about the possibility that someone else made this, and then put google in the metadata?

  • @Eric – yes, highly possible.

  • You forgot to stick nofollow on your Wiki link 😉

    Andy Beard’s last blog post..I’ve Been Robbed!!!

  • @Andy Beard – I gave that up about 10 links ago. 😉

  • That’s pretty funny actually. Even a Phd grad can make mistakes I guess. As far as Google doing no evil, I think that veneer has been worn pretty thin on most in the know.

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  • Nobody believes the “dont do evil”- stuff anymore. They are just too big for that. And humans always can make errors. I do believe the story

  • The more i read about google, the less i like them. It is a shame that yahoo and microsoft seem to be absolutely incompetent.

  • People used to be so found of Google. Google tries to preach about good business ethics but again and again they are proving to rather hypocritical.


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  • Conspiracies always get people talking. It can go either way, business is business and sometimes people do things to benefit their business. There are also many people that could do this within and out of Google, its simple to pretend to be someone else on the Internet.

  • PS3

    Maybe Google are hoping for new PPC income on the term “triple bluff”. My brain is fried after a mad few days at work and maybe I am missing something, but my question is “why?”

  • This is just like common comedy story where the criminal is usually end up stupidly. Google must learn something from this.

  • Kevin_T

    Actually the fault would have been with the ACCC, the submission was not made anonymously but actually put onto the ACCC’s website, in their own format, anonomously. The ACCC made submissions anonymous on request, and yes, certainly Google requested anonominity on the public register, but it was certainly not submitted in a way that did not carry weight – it was even accepted by the ACCC after the closing date for submissions.

    The submission itself is here:

    and all of the submissions regarding Ebay Australia’s proposal are on this page
    (there are a handful of others marked anonymous from private poeple)

    Cheers, Kevin

  • It’s possible someone other than Google left this in to throw people off the scent? Or maybe I’ve been watching too many Fox lunar specials and Oliver Stone movies….