Facebook’s Foiled Smear Campaign Against Google

Facebook has been accused of performing a clandestine smear campaign against Google. Allegedly, Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public relations firm to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy.

Facebook has been accused of attempting to hire an influential blogger to instigate a Google-smear op-ed which would be published in high profile news websites such as the Huffington Post, The Washington Post and Politico.

The plot backfired against when the Blogger declined the offer from Burson-Marsteller and instead made public the email correspondence between the two. USA Today released a new story that accused the company of spreading a whisper campaign about Google.

A spokesperson from Facebook confirmed that they did in fact hire Burson stating that: "First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service."

As Google pushes into social networking world, Facebook is inevitably a major competitor. At the center of the debate is Google’s "Social Circle." This is a tool that allows Gmail users to browse information about their friends and their friends or "secondary connections."

Burson stated in their press release that Google’s Social Circle 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." Burson went on to state that: "The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloging and broadcasting every minute of every day – without their permission."

An agitated Chris Soghoian, a blogger Burson offered to help write the op-ed, felt that Burson was "making a mountain out of a molehill."

Soghoian published their email exchange online when Burson declined to reveal the amount of money that was to be exchanged to him to syndicate the reports. It was also found that two other Burson employees (Jim Goldman, and John Mercurio) were reported to ask USA Today and other news outlets to publish articles and editorials claiming Google was violating people’s privacy with Social Circle. In the USA Today press release, USA Today commented: "After Goldman’s pitch proved largely untrue, he subsequently declined USA Today’s requests for comments."

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