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Google Accidently Revealed As eBay Critic 259

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the that-was-some-other-search-site dept.
Xiroth writes "In what could cause an escalation of tensions between the two internet giants, an anonymous critique of eBay's upcoming move to accepting only PayPal as the payment method in Australia has accidently been revealed to have been submitted by Google thanks to PDF meta-tags."
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Google Accidently Revealed As eBay Critic

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  • Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:23PM (#23610225) Homepage Journal
    I think it's funny that the PDF dissapeared shortly after the discovery, only to be reposted with the incriminating metadata stripped out hours later. That's pretty brazen since the cat was already out of the bag.

    Did anyone NOT think that Google astroturfs like all the rest? They just got busted at it is all.
    • Re:Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by elnico (1290430) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:35PM (#23610327)
      If you pay attention, you'll notice that the "brazen reposting" was done by the ACC, not Google.

      And I don't see this as astroturfing. Posting anonymously is different from posting under a fake identity. Not to mention they're both tangential to whether or not Google has a point in their submission.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cheater512 (783349)
        Its the ACCC, not ACC. :)

        Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
      • Re:Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bit01 (644603) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @07:13PM (#23613245)

        And I don't see this as astroturfing. Posting anonymously is different from posting under a fake identity.

        Bullshit. It's posting in a way that's intended to deceive the reader into thinking the message is by an average citizen and not paid propaganda. It's fraud.

        Astroturfers are lying scum and should be in jail.

        Companies should have no right of anonymity and it's about time the law caught up with them. All communication by corporate entities should be clearly identified as such. Corporations have a privileged legal position and with that privilege comes responsibility. In particular, transparency and accountability.

        Think it doesn't matter? It does, or they wouldn't do it.

        Corporate tools will claim that readers will not give them a fair hearing if they post under the corporate name. Well hello, guess why. If corporations were trustworthy they wouldn't have a problem.

        Others will claim that the message should be evaluated independent of the messenger. Self serving nonsense, context is very important in evaluating the veracity of a message.

        ---

        Paid marketers are the worst zealots.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Onan (25162)

          Your reactions might be appropriate if the intent was to deceive the ACCC or Australians citizens who might be swayed by the critique. But the article implies that Google's goal was to keep the criticism anonymous from eBay, out of concern for possible retaliation.

          So while your feelings about the relative merits of corporations and individuals appear to be very strong, they do not seem to be very relevant to this case. The anonymity was about the interactions between two corporations.

          (And since you f

        • Re:Heh (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Pseudonym (62607) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @10:50PM (#23614321)

          It's posting in a way that's intended to deceive the reader into thinking the message is by an average citizen and not paid propaganda. It's fraud.

          Bullshit. Nobody has accused Google of hiding their identity from the ACCC, who are the ones who have to make the decision. The ACCC just removed Google's identity from the public record.

          Moreover, nobody is accusing anyone of lying about who Google's submission came from.

          Think it doesn't matter? It does, or they wouldn't do it.

          Actually, we know exactly why Google wanted the submission to be anonymous to the public, and it had nothin to do with fraud.

          The ACCC inquiry, if you recall, is to determine whether or not eBay should be granted an exemption from Australian trade practices law so that they can require everyone to use PayPal on eBay Australia. Everyone knows that eBay is using Australia as an experiment to see if they can get away with imposing this on the rest of the world, too. Google Checkout is in direct competition with PayPal elsewhere, but not in Australia yet.

          Google wanted to submit anonymously to avoid hard questions about whether or not they were planning to roll out Google Checkout in Australia any time soon. To their credit, Google has been very up-front about this since the story broke.

          (Disclaimer: I am not connected with Google, but it was a close family member of mine who "discovered" the PDF metadata.)

        • Re:Heh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pclminion (145572) on Sunday June 01, 2008 @02:05PM (#23618713)

          Bullshit. It's posting in a way that's intended to deceive the reader into thinking the message is by an average citizen and not paid propaganda. It's fraud. Astroturfers are lying scum and should be in jail.

          People should be jailed for speaking anonymously? Exactly which Godwin reference were you shooting for?

    • Re:Heh (Score:5, Funny)

      by hansraj (458504) * on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:40PM (#23610385)

      That's pretty brazen since the cat was already out of the bag.
      So did someone finally figure out whether it was dead or alive?
    • Re:Heh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:12PM (#23610659) Homepage
      I guess the enemy of my enemy (and eBay is every law-abiding citizens' enemy) is my friend, so in my eyes Google still does no evil.
    • Re:Heh (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shatrat (855151) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @03:53PM (#23611937)
      Astroturf.
      I do not think it means what you think it means.
      They aren't advertising anonymously.
      Google is criticizing an anti-competitive move that will hurt consumers as well as Google and pretty much everyone other than Ebay.
      If they want to do so anonymously because they have advertising accounts with ebay, I don't see anything sinister about that.
    • you can apply that term to shit like what at&t pulls with its inexistent 'grassroots' movement against network neutrality.

      criticizing something that is really negative is never astroturfing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's not astroturfing. The circumstances are so far from any conception of astroturfing that it's not funny. Claims to the contrary demonstrate ignorance.

      It is an official submission to the Australian competition authority (the ACCC). Anonymity is provided where there are legitimate reasons for providing it (for example another company that fears retaliation should their opposition to the proposal become known). Legitimacy is determined by the ACCC. The ACCC knows the identity of the submitter and is the on
  • by poeidon1 (767457) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:27PM (#23610253) Homepage
    so does it really prove that the document came from Google? Of course, they might be the one but who knows...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dreamchaser (49529)
      Sure, anyone could created a similar incriminating document. Heck even Ebay could have. However, I'm pretty sure Google astroturfs along with the rest of it's competetion, so I tend to think it was just a slip up on their part, especially since it was reposted with metadata stripped out later on.

      I guess it could be a clever setup to make Google look bad, but my instincts tell me it's not. YMMV.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Is Google really direct competition for eBay, though? Google Checkout is really more competition for Yahoo stores than anything else, and even then it's not direct competition. Google just isn't in the online auction business.
         
        • by Fjandr (66656)
          Google Checkout is competition for PayPal, which is owned by eBay. So yes, they are in competition.
        • by Torvaun (1040898)
          It's not about eBay's online auctions, it's about how you pay for the things you buy in one of the largest online markets. Google Checkout -is- in direct competition with PayPal, and the new policy for PayPal only could be trouble.
      • by Televiper2000 (1145415) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:49PM (#23610469)
        It's also possible that it was written by someone within the ranks of Google who isn't officially representing his corporate masters. I'm wondering of Google hasn't already submitted something similar officially. They have both the interest and credentials to do so.
    • by LaughingCoder (914424) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:14PM (#23610679)
      Maybe Dan Rather produced it.
    • You can, but getting on a government website is the trick, isn't it, especially when they ask you to prove who you work for. (The government department did the anonymising, poorly.)
    • by 1 a bee (817783)
      I think I can make an argument why it has to be from Google. Here are the "facts" FTA:
      1. The original submitted document bears the word Google.
      2. The submission is later updated with the word Google removed.
      3. All this happens on a site controlled by the Australian watchdog.
      4. The watchdog knows, in fact, who the anonymous submitters are.

      We know that last fact from

      The ACCC is able to categorise submissions as anonymous if the submitter can argue that there are commercial-in-confidence reason not to reveal their identity.

      An ACCC spokeswoman said the ACCC had received the document from the parties in a PDF form for posting on the public register in that format.

      She said it was not the ACCC's responsibility to check that all the identifiers had been stripped out because the parties insisted it was fine.

      Now consider the counter-case where the document was not originally authored by Google. The watchdog would have then learned that one of its submitt

  • Good. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169)
    eBay is wrong and unethical, Google is right to complain.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      How is it unethical to use your own checkout system? Is it also unethical for a merchant to accept Visa and deny my very own Bongo card?
      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Fjandr (66656) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:15PM (#23610689) Homepage Journal
        It's not unethical. What is unethical is not allowing users to use any other form of payment (aside from COD). Why would an online merchant who already has a merchant gateway (credit card processing) account have to pay PayPal's ridiculous fees? There is absolutely zero technical reason for the prohibition, and aside from check/MO/cashier's check fraud, adds zero to the overall safety of transactions.

        They are the defacto monopoly in the online auction space, and are using that weight to shut out competitors in another market (payment processing.)
        • Re:Good. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jlarocco (851450) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @03:28PM (#23611745) Homepage

          The definition of "monopoly" is not "large and popular". There are thousands of online auction sites. There are no barriers to entry into the online auction field. Any "web developer" worth the title could hack together a functional auction site in a couple days. The only downside is those other sites don't have as many users as eBay, but there are ways around that if you really dislike eBay.

          If you keep using eBay, even though you think they're doing something wrong, how will they know you disagree with them? In fact, if you keep using them, they don't even care what you think. Making PayPal mandatory and seeing a 10% decrease in revenue means something. Making PayPal mandatory and having a bunch of people cry doesn't.

          Unless you own a lot of eBay stock, you don't get to decide how they run their business. Your only options are "Use eBay" or "Don't use eBay".

          It's kinda funny how every day people on here whine that companies only care about money, yet everybody avoids using it against the companies like we're supposed to.

          • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Fjandr (66656) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @04:00PM (#23612023) Homepage Journal
            De facto: in actuality, if not actual legal definition. Market share is a key indicator of monopoly status. Using that market share to create an artificial barrier to entry (into payment processing, not auction sites) is an abuse of that status.

            To put it another way, requiring use of PayPal could easily be argued to amount to unlawful bundling of a service that is not strictly necessary to eBay's auction business.

            Granted this is all from a US legal standpoint, rather than an Australian one.
            • by jlarocco (851450)

              De facto: in actuality, if not actual legal definition. Market share is a key indicator of monopoly status. Using that market share to create an artificial barrier to entry (into payment processing, not auction sites) is an abuse of that status.

              What barrier are they creating? Is eBay the only website that uses payment processing?

              The other payment processors, and businesses in general, aren't entitled to customers. I can start my own payment processing company this afternoon if I wanted to. Doesn't

              • by Fjandr (66656)
                A barrier into providing payment processing for online auctions. You can say they are not a monopoly all you like, but the actual fact of the matter is, if this becomes the standard payment model for eBay services nobody will have a choice of payment processors in the current market. It doesn't matter what might happen sometime in the future. This is how the industry exists right now, and the law isn't really much for looking at theoretical potentialities. They may cease to be a monopoly at some point in th
          • Network effects (Score:4, Insightful)

            by sjbe (173966) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @06:12PM (#23612807)

            The definition of "monopoly" is not "large and popular". There are thousands of online auction sites. There are no barriers to entry into the online auction field.
            EBay has one of the most formidable barriers to entry there is, namely network effects [wikipedia.org]. Sellers go to eBay because that is where the buyers are and vice-versa. The barriers to entry if you want to compete with eBay are HUGE. Amazon.com and Yahoo both tried and failed miserably to make a dent in eBay's auction business and they have all the capital and IT talent necessary already. Like it or not, eBay has a de-facto monopoly on online auctions to the same extent Microsoft has one on operating systems.

            The only downside is those other sites don't have as many users as eBay, but there are ways around that if you really dislike eBay.
            That's pretty much the one disadvantage that actually matters. The ENTIRE point of a marketplace is to bring buyers and sellers together. No one brings more buyers and sellers together than eBay - in fact there isn't even a close second. As someone who has conducted over 10,000 online auctions let me tell you, if you want to use any site other than eBay except for very specialized items (like guns) even if you sell your item at all off eBay you aren't likely to get a good price or many interested buyers.
          • There are thousands of online auction sites. There are no barriers to entry into the online auction field
            Rubbish. There are huge barriers to entry. Buyers will not go to a new online auction site unless there are people selling things they want to buy. Sellers will not go to an online auction site that doesn't have many buyers, because they will get too low a price for their goods.
        • Actually,
          It's not unethical. You are not forced by anyone to buy or sell from ebay.
          This will help competing auction sites (and there are some specialized ones) to grow.
      • by bsDaemon (87307)
        No, but eBay is pretty much the only game in town as far as auctions that don't involve guns, ww2 relics from certain countries, and anything else cool go.

        By saying that you have to use their own system for transactions is therefore fairly anti-competitive. It's like Standard Oil or US Steele owning the mines, the rail roads, the plants, and the houses where the workers lived. Its designed to save them money by controlling the whole process, not make things more convenient for you.

        Yes, paypal is pretty ub
      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mistshadow2k4 (748958) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:20PM (#23610721) Journal
        I don't know about unethical, but it definitely is anti-competitive. eBay does have a monopoly in the online auction business. That there are other online auction businesses is little different than MS saying they're not a monopoly because of Apple. So, that the move is anti-competitive would have a good chance of standing up in court. If eBay thinks they're so powerful that this needn't concern them, I'd say that's pretty arrogant; Google may be the search giant rather than the online-pay giant, but they're still pretty powerful.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by legirons (809082)

        How is it unethical to use your own checkout system?
        When you have a monopoly in the auction market and wish to extend this to a monopoly in the electronic payments market?
    • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

      by GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) <joeXbanks@NosPAm.hotmail.com> on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:36PM (#23610337)
      Exactly, I don't see what the problem is. Google is the bad guy after calling out eBay for blatantly abusing their monopoly power? Who cares if they were trying to do so "anonymously"? Doesn't change the facts.
      • I think google did it anonymously because a great % of google ads income is from ebay. This could wery well piss ebay off, and decide to spend their money elsewhere (if ebay is stupid enough - but I don't think so).
        It sure makes google look like a coward not to file the complain signed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mortonda (5175)
        Great quote from Ocean's Eleven:

        "I may be biased but that doesn't mean I'm wrong!"
    • Indeed, and this just helps the case for people who were already protesting against it. Publicity.

      If Google had just outright said "We Here At Google Don't Like The Idea", no one would have cared, not news-worthy, but trying to cover it up... "hmm"... intrigue.
    • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:04PM (#23610611) Homepage
      They have a payment system and the technical capabilities, time for Google Auctions. Fuck ebay.
      • Mod parent up (Score:3, Informative)

        by Boss Sauce (655550)
        Way too much sketchiness and outright fraud on eBay-- they seemed to stop engineering the system years ago.

        I bet a few Google engineers have thought of this and at least a few have thrown a little 20% time at this isue...
    • I actually think this brings more weight against eBay. Its just another way to suck money out of their customers, with paypal fees on top of the auction collections. With Google now vetted as the author, it just gives the opposition that much more credibility.
  • So? That doesn't make the policy any less stupid.
  • RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IronMagnus (777535) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @12:37PM (#23610353)
    For all of you saying this was Google's mess up... please RTFA:

    The Australian competition watchdog has accidentally revealed Google as the anonymous source of a submission that is highly critical of eBay's proposal to force its users onto the PayPal payments system.

    Google didn't mess up, the watchdogs did.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      I doubt that Google needs to remain anonymous anyway. I know there's always the inference of bias because Google is a competitor, but there is a similar, and possibly stronger inference of bias with anonymous statements because of the question of why they need to remain anonymous on this topic.

      I can't help but imagine a much bigger outrage if Microsoft tried to anonymously complain about a competitor's anti-trust activities.
    • Re:RTFA^2 (Score:4, Informative)

      by Fastolfe (1470) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:30PM (#23610803)

      Also from "TFA":

      An ACCC spokeswoman said the ACCC had received the document from the parties in a PDF form for posting on the public register in that format.

      She said it was not the ACCC's responsibility to check that all the identifiers had been stripped out because the parties insisted it was fine.

      I read this as saying Google provided the "anonymized" PDF, and the ACCC said, "OK," and posted it. This would make it Google's error.

  • I don't trust eBay either (den of thieves), too easy for intentional misleading product descriptions or not get the product at all...
  • by hansraj (458504) * on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:21PM (#23610729)
    From TFA:

    Translated it means that the PDF was created from a Microsoft Word document with the filename "204481916_1_ACCC Submission by Google re eBay Public _2_.DOC".
    Didn't Google use a version of Ubuntu internally? Probably not a real question given the size of Google but nevertheless...
    • Sounds like it was an email copied to word then turned into a PDF for posting on the web.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ELProphet (909179)
      I use Ubuntu. I don't use OpenOffice.org. I find myself more productive using Office 2007 Word, Powerpoint, and Excell, so I bought myself a copy of Office 2007 and put it on Wine. Does it run perfect? Not quite, but I still prefer it. I'm sure that many in Google's middle management feel the same, esp as Office is targeted directly at that market.
  • Basic security. Jeesh.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:27PM (#23610781)
    The Google Checkout team has very publically prodded eBay before: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=google+checkout+let+freedom+ring&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]

    This is why I doubt this was some covert Google operation. Last time they wanted to protest eBay, they were going to throw a party about it. That's just how they work. This is more likely just someone at Google who was passionate about this topic and used their work computer to write the doc up.

    Anyway, I'm glad this is being brought up again, because the move to block GCO from use on eBay is very, very shitty and should be as public as possible. Their official reason is that it doesn't have a "substantial historical track record of providing safe and reliable financial and/or banking related services", which works to keep out shady payment processors, but also apparently works for keeping out legitimate competitors.

    More info on the original spat: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=google+checkout+ebay&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]
  • by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:29PM (#23610795)
    It's coming up on two years since the slashdot article [slashdot.org] announcing that Ebay bans Google checkout payments.

    I'd be pissed too if Ebay pretty much implied that shitty little companies like propay.com can handle high dollar business transactions better.

    Of course the lack of features or policies is probably not the reason at at all. Paypal is probably just scared of having it's market share shoot straight through the floor.
  • Is it even possible for someone to challenge their market dominance at this point?! What's to stop them from continuing to raise their already ridiculous prices (and practices)??
  • As someone who has bought and sold science fiction first editions on eBay for nigh on a decade now, and who currently has eBay feedback over 1000, I hope that this finally spurs Google to launch an eBay auction competitor to eat eBay's lunch. (Or, as you newfangled kids say these days when you're not getting the hell off my lawn, I hope Google drinks eBay's milkshake.)

    The reason is that eBay has gone from being bringing buyers and sellers together to treating them like pinatas to be beaten with a stick to extract the maximum amount of money from them. Fees have only gone up, the changes made to feedback have been asinine, and eBay has let their core auction business language while they've been trying to turn themselves into an inferior clone of Amazon.

    It's gotten so bad that I've reduced my listings by 98% since the new fee structure was announced (and most of the remaining 2% are books another writer asked me to sell on eBay on consignment)> It's simply insufficiently profitable for me to deal there anymore.

    Since Google already has the infrastructure in place, I hope they come out with a Google Auctions, radically undercut eBay's fee structure (free for the first two years might do it), and either make eBay's repent or else drive them under entirely.

    Why not? Certainly Google has enough computing infrastructure to run an auction business as big as eBay's without even noticing the loading, and I know they're smart enough to create an auction system from scratch.

    Lawrence Person
    Lame Excuse Books
    http://home.austin.rr.com/lperson/lame.html [rr.com]
    • by mortonda (5175)

      and eBay has let their core auction business language
      I had to read that several times before I realized you meant "languish".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LVSlushdat (854194)
      Reading this made me check my eBay sales records.. I just sold one video card in the last week, sort of testing the eBay waters so to speak, having sold nada since all the new idiocy was announced by feebay.. On a 15.88 final sale price, I was charged a Final value fee by feebay of $1.39, and a previous transaction which sold for $15.50, in 2006, had an FVF of $0.81, for a nearly 60% increase... That's not including the PayPal fee, listing fee... I'm so through with feeBay... Hope they choke to death...
    • by AbRASiON (589899) *
      I have only got into Ebay in the last 2 years and I couldn't agree more, Ebay have become one of the scummiest companies on the internet, the fees are ridiculous. If you use paypal and the item sells in a certain price range, fees can be as high as 15% - that's insane for an online transaction using some html and images - they are making a killing and it's primarily due to being a monoply.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @03:00PM (#23611517)
    The problem with Google's posting of an opinion, that many probably agree with, is that the use of ad-hominem is so prevalent and accepted that, these days, it is impossible to state something factual and verifiable, or reasonable and well thought out, without it being automatically colored by what people's perceptions of your motives might be.

    People have just given up even attempting to think. They judge quickly based on sound bites and prejudices, they no longer contemplate the validity of an argument before forming an opinion.

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