What about a little Nixonian intrigue? A respected public relations firm has been caught executing a secret smear campaign against Google to large media outlets, trying to make Google looks bad (or worse, depending on your point of view). Who hired this firm to do this? You’d think Microsoft or Apple, it’s right up their alley – but no, it’s actually Facebook.
Burson-Marsteller, a prestigious public relations firm, had been pitching anti-Google stories to several major US media outlets. They even tried to coerce an influential blogger to write an anti-Google story, which they promised would be published in large outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post. The blogger in question is Christopher Soghoian, who, after turning down the offer, asked the PR firm who their client was. They wouldn’t say.
And that’s when the story got rolling. The Daily Beast found out that Facebook was the mysterious client, and after confronting a Facebook spokesperson with the evidence they had, the social networking site confessed. Facebook hired the PR firm because it believes Google’s activities in social networking raise privacy concerns, and because Facebook isn’t happy with something called Google Social Circle, which sometimes gets its data from users’ Facebook friends.
PR firm Facebook claimed that 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”. They added: “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.”
This could very well be true, but it’s incredibly ironic that such a complaint comes from Facebook, of all places. A Facebook spokesperson further said that “[they] are concerned that Google may be improperly using data they have scraped about Facebook users.” Google replied that this is a new accusation from Facebook and that they need to investigate it first before releasing a statement about it.
From where I’m standing, this is quite amusing. It does look like Facebook is scared of Google, and it all looks incredibly amateurish to see such a large company engage in something as idiotic as this. Did they honestly expect this would not come out?