In a seven-page "Vision Statement" made in 2008, the top brass at Google is shown weighing their options between not being evil and keeping up with new companies selling user search and surfing data to advertisers.
Selling surfing and search data is becoming a huge business, allowing advertisers to get more and more targeted with their online ads. The more targeted the ad, the more likely someone is to click on it and the more an advertiser will pay. Obviously, as companies get more sophisticated with their tracking methods, this is going to become a bigger and bigger part of the online advertising business.
The leaked document, called a "brainstorming document" by people familiar with it, shows Google weighing its options between its prior insistence to avoid such practices at the behest of its founders and the reality of the industry right now, where new companies are doing things that Google could do much better and making a lot of money in the process.
With these new companies, such as BlueKai and eXelate Media, offering these tracking services and Google increasingly threatened by Facebook's skyrocketing traffic, they've got a lot of motivation to bend the definition of evil in their famous unofficial motto. We'll see how far they're willing to go. [Wall Street Journal via Slashdot]