Facebook busted over anti-Google smear campaign

In an embarrassing leak, Facebook has been shamed for hiring top public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to spread anti-Google stories around the internet. Burson encouraged several influential bloggers to comment on Google’s privacy invasion, and even offered to place these articles in prominent newspapers such as The Washington Post and Politico.

Naturally, this backfired in a major way when a blogger turned down the offer to smear Google, and posted the emails from Burson online. This fight was escalated when USA Today posted a story accusing the PR firm of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google for an “unnamed client. ” Originally this unnamed client was figured to be either Microsoft or Apple, but The Daily Beast discovered that it was actually Facebook behind the plot.

What are the reasons? Well according to a Facebook spokesperson, the social network hired the firm firstly because it believes Google is doing things in social networking that “raise privacy concerns,” and secondly because “Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.”

Burson-M arsteller were pushing Social Circle, a Google tool that lets Gmail users view information about friends and friends of friends, as the culprit for the so-called privacy concerns. They claimed the service was “designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users—in a direct and flagrant violation of [Google's] agreement with the FTC. ”

Blogger Chris Soghoian, who was approached to write an anti-Google op-ed, says Social Circle wasn’t nearly as dangerous as Burson made it out to be. It is more likely, as mentioned by the Facebook spokesperson, that Facebook was annoyed about Google’s use of Facebook data in the service.

This is a very embarrassing moment for Facebook, as they are struggling to keep the world’s largest search engine at bay while fueling a rivalry that grows fiercer with every step. Google sees Facebook’s 600 million user base as a threat and is determined to etch away at this chunk of users with its own (yet to launch or be announced) social network. Facebook doesn’t like this idea and has to resort to dirty tactics to quietly attack the opposition.

As this smear campaign has been busted, not only has Facebook been shamed but also the PR firm they hired, which is a highly respected global company used by many high-profile companies including HP, Apple and Intel. While Burson will likely recover, it doesn’t appear as though the Google-Facebook rivalry will be taking a rest any time soon.

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26 Comments

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Wow that's F'd up. Burson & Marsteller have a corporate headquaters here in Chicago. Why would they want to be affiliated with anyone as dirty as zuckerberg. Didn't they see the movie? Don't they read the news? Look what he did. Facst are he STOLE someone else idea. Oh wait, I forgot in the tech community this is not looked down upon because they all steal each other ideas.

I would have went to thr press with the email if they had sent it to me saying I have s juicy story that is worth millions, but all I want is $10,000 from each one I went too.

So, Facebook believes Google is doing things in social networking that “raise privacy concerns”.

The words "Pot", "Kettle", and "Black" spring to mind.

Brian Miller said,
So, Facebook believes Google is doing things in social networking that “raise privacy concerns”.

The words "Pot", "Kettle", and "Black" spring to mind.

Defeinitely!!!

Phil DeLong said,
Wow, that's embarassing. Bet they wish this never came to light

Shoulda called him in the 1st place, instead of using email. Now the world can see the face of facebook.

BunBunCake said,

Shoulda called him in the 1st place, instead of using email. Now the world can see the face of facebook.

Seriously, they had a lot of misplaced faith in their ability to recruit people if they were just sending these emails out to everyone.

Phil DeLong said,

Seriously, they had a lot of misplaced faith in their ability to recruit people if they were just sending these emails out to everyone.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking too.

This is really embarrassing for everyone involved though.

BunBunCake said,
Deleting my facebook account =)
Android is enough for me to keep up with my friends

You've taken a huge step in the right direction.

Neobond said,
Be interesting to see what Google comes up with after "Buzz"

Hope something much better, I don't like Facebook at all, so I will be all the way with Google, and Google Music looks pretty promissing (even if they are on a different niche, just to say...), so I hope the next Google social attempt will be much better.

Neobond said,
Be interesting to see what Google comes up with after "Buzz"

Whatever it is, it sure to be a failure. Majority of people are quite content with using Facebook and/or Twitter. No one really wants to join a third.

I just hope Google is smart enough to call it quits of Lattitude, we have Foursquare for that.

The top three failures of Google that come immediately to mind are Buzz, Wave and Video. All these failures are because something better already exists.

Buzz was like Twitter. It didn't make it better.

Wave was an enhanced collaborative type email project. Email is dead. Not in the business sense but in a social sense. Most people just Facebook, Twitter, IM or text to stay in contact.

Video didn't improve on YouTube. In fact Google knew this which was why they bought YouTube.

Google is doing things in social networking that “raise privacy concerns,”

I don't think Facebook is any position to start making allegations like this.

JAGFin1 said,

I don't think Facebook is any position to start making allegations like this.

I was going to say exactly the same thing LOL

JAGFin1 said,

I don't think Facebook is any position to start making allegations like this.

Unless “raise privacy” actually means offering better privacy. No wonder Facebook is concerned, with all the efforts Facebook has gone through to expose your private profile.

Brian Miller said,

Unless “raise privacy” actually means offering better privacy. No wonder Facebook is concerned, with all the efforts Facebook has gone through to expose your private profile.


I doubt that is what they meant. I've tried reading that line every way far and between and, semantically, I come to the same conclusion: Facebook are implying that Google are doing something with privacy that people will be concerned about. Obviously I have no idea what that is, I'm just getting information as I read it.

smooth_criminal1990 said,

Damn right, it's a case of pot and kettle IMO

Very much so. Amazing FB would say anything suggesting their commitment to upholding privacy rights given the things Zuckerberg has gone on record as saying on the matter.