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Facebook caught red-handed in Google smear

13 May 2011

The Facebook/Google rivalry just got dirty. 

It was revealed today that the 'unnamed client' behind the efforts of a top public relations firm to plant anti-Google stories in newspapers and blogs, was none other than Facebook. 

The PR firm, Burston-Marsteller, reportedly tried to influence various media outlets to write stories bashing Google for privacy violations over its planned Social Circle tool. Social Circle allows people with Gmail account see publicly available information about friends-of-friends, as well as immediate contacts. 

However, USA Today - one of the publications approached - looked into it and decided the claims of privacy invasion were exaggerated. It instead published a story accusing the PR firm of spreading a "whisper campaign" to smear Google. 

Burston-Marsteller made an earlier gaffe, when it contacted blogger Christopher Soghoian to offer to help him write an anti-Google op-ed. Instead, Soghoian published the email exchange

Still, until The Daily Beast's story today, nobody knew that Facebook was behind the smear campaign. From the blog:

"Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: 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.
Read the full story here.