Posted August 31, 2009 9:21 am by with 7 comments

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Ebvyirlb_question_yHere’s something that Google might want to nip in the bud, before it becomes true via urban legend.

Over at the Google Webmaster Help forum we get an unsubstantiated claim that an ex-Google employee has turned evil:

Around May I discovered another competitors site recent appearance that looked very similar to mine, in fact even the sentences on my homepage were copied directly to his.  Then by reading the press release for the company I found out it was started by a high up google employee who quit his job with google to form the company.  Shorty after contacting the owner politely introducing myself, I received a threat letter back through email.  I don’t know if I can publish the email on this site so I will hesitate for now.  Basically the owner said he was going to crush me with his skills he had received from google…

…So at the end of all of this my page rank dropped from a two to a zero.  And now my site has started showing up on malicious porn sites on the internet and in bad forums, and some seem to be in the form of hidden links that appear to be bought by someone else.

OK, so we have two reasons to doubt this is true.

  1. How do we know this poster is telling the truth?
  2. How do we know that the attacker ever was a Google employee?

The answers are, we don’t. However, this is an example of how rumors and speculation can inflict as much damage on a company’s reputation as the truth. Now that both Barry Schwartz and I have reported on this, it risks becoming an urban legend. (Yes, I’m aware that I’m helping to spread this “rumor”, but that’s like saying the cancer wouldn’t spread, if only the doctor hadn’t told the patient).

What Google should do is try and get to the bottom of this and, quickly, prove that this thread is a figment of someone’s over-active imagination. Unless, of course, ex-Google employees are venting after many years of not being able to do any evil. 😉

  • Nothing like fanning the flames, eh?

    I’m curious though, as to what an ex-Google employee is actually allowed to do, especially if they had access to some very sensitive (and potentially very profitable) data. Aren’t they made to sign some kind of agreement preventing them from doing this kind of stuff, at least for a period of time after they leave?

    Anyway, the real questions are,

    (a) should Google respond to everything that is posted about itself on an Internet forum? I imagine it would have to do a LOT of responding.

    (b) are Google responsible for the actions of its EX employees? (Or does it need to become more responsible, or at least pay closer attention to what they’re up to?)

    I have no idea. The problem is, if it responded to this, how many more “unsubstantiated stories” would pop up as “link bait” to try and draw Google out, just to draw attention to their blog.

    Maybe it’s in Google’s best interests not to respond. But then again, it popped up on THEIR forum, didn’t it?
    .-= Paul Hancox at copySnips´s last blog ..The Power Of “Because” =-.

  • @Paul – some good points, but I think you answered your own question with your last sentence. 😉

  • It sounds like the ex employee is privy to information about how to hurt a website. We all know that you can hurt a website with external linking. This ex google employee may have even more information than we do about how to hurt a website. There is nothing Google can do about this other than to fix their algo. It needs to be fixed. It is too easy to hurt a website you don’t like. What the guy claims is very possible. I don’t think the Google employee has access to anything internal at Google other than names he can turn a website in for spam faster than we can.
    .-= David Ogletree´s last blog ..Top ten CSS articles =-.

  • I guess it is very easy to hurt a site… we all know what makes Google ‘tick’ when it comes to SERP, and of course no one will apply positive strategies to their competitor, but what if they apply negative ones to yours?

    Instead of making himslef look better in the eyes of Google, that site / person started by making YOUR look worse.

    If it was football, it would be like breaking the opposite team’s best player’s leg in the first half… the second half will be so much easier.
    .-= Eloi´s last blog ..Eloi_Casali: Disney wants to buy Marvel ! (via @Korben) =-.

  • I agree with Paul that Google should do something the substantiate these claims. If they have people that are leaving and turning rogue, it’s in their best interest to find and stop those folks so as to preserve the user experience of honest folks like the supposed originator of this claim. Impossible task? Maybe.
    .-= Josh Braaten´s last blog ..Internet Meetups for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Beyond =-.

  • Yep, Google needs to learn get on top of this quick before it spreads. Last thing they need is a reputation bash like the United Breaks Guitars thing.
    .-= Jacob Stoops´s last blog ..101 SEO Tips That Made My Head Explode =-.

  • This is a very similar story to the one I have ongoing at the moment, a competitor (who did not work for Google) was advertising his computer repair business address as a spinoff of mine in what I believed to be a way of duping my customers into believing he was affiliated with me and getting a better listing on Local Business results,

    I contacted him via email and politely asked him to correct his listings in accordance with UK law and after much babble from him he agreed, shortly after I received a ton of spam every day in my email, calls from various telesales and a load of spam mail in the form of brochures and so on, this went on for a few weeks and I then started getting telephone calls with nobody on the line but they would not hang up so my telephone was engaged for half an hour at a time.

    This all lasted for a few weeks until it became more sinister, I received a call on my blackberry with death metal music playing and again the persons would not hang up, I then got an email from my sites contact page with a death threat and another with a link to a picture of my home with my step daughters car in the image, the idiot however had actually logged on with his own PC to send the threat, I simply matched the IP on the server logs with the email and matched that with the previous emails he had sent regarding the address, I had the police in the next day and he sent threat another when they were in.

    I am still waiting to hear back from the police as they are having problems getting a hold of them, during this time I am finding links all over the place for my site on these rapidshare and file sharing forums, the whole thing has been a nightmare but once I get the police report I can have this idiot charged, sue him and have his broadband disconnected, he is a lucky man though because the rest of my family and friends just wanted to go round and break him.

    Who said being is the computer repair business was no fun.