The rumor that won’t die: Google has a mole at Twitter

Google spyThis is one we tried to ignore for as long as possible, but it just won’t quite go away. Yesterday, TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington lodged a major claim that Google had a mole working at Twitter. According to Arrington, “Multiple sources close to Twitter have said that someone with access to Twitter’s most confidential information, such as who they are interviewing for key executive spots, may be leaking that information directly to Google.”

This comes after Google reportedly shelled out millions to retain two high level executives that were being recruited by Twitter. Apparently, Google was able to best Twitter’s offer before one of the employees even admitted he was considering the move to the microblogging company, which supposedly lends credibility to the idea of a Google spy working at Twitter.

If the story ended there, it wouldn’t be worth repeating, but it’s struck a chord with Silicon Valley and now, names are being named. Business Insider suggests that the most likely suspect is Kleiner Perkins associate John Doerr, who is now being scrutinized as the alleged mole. Doerr is a well-known social media investor, and has stakes in sites like Twitter, Groupon, and Zynga. He is also serves on the board of directors for Google and has been a “board observer” at a recent Twitter board meeting.

So while there may be something of a conflict of interest in Doerr’s case, that doesn’t necessarily mean he leaked any confidential information to Google that he shouldn’t have. What’s become more intriguing in this sordid tale is how much Google and Twitter are pitting against each other: Twitter seems supremely interested in poaching some very important pieces of the Google machine–most notably Sundar Pichai, crucial to the Chrome team, and Neal Mohan, another product manager. Google already has its hands full trying to come up with a successful social product, and is busy waging war against Facebook. Then, there is also the looming antitrust investigation, which may begin now that the DOJ’s investigation into Google’s purchase of ITA Software has concluded. If its thus far ill-executed social platform doesn’t land successfully and soon, it might get swallowed up by competitors (at least in that particular arena).

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