The rivalry between Facebook and Google just keeps getting more and more interesting. Allegations are arising that Facebook hired a prominent PR firm to plant stories with various media outlets that harshly criticized Google’s privacy policies.
However, this backfired on Facebook when the firm got in touch with a blogger who not only turned down the assignment, but brought everything into the public limelight.
Now, Facebook said that it never intended to run a smear campaign. Instead, it says it hired Burson-Marstellar to investigate a new service from Google called Social Circle.
Facebook said it wanted to know how Google collected and used the data from it.
However, Facebook does acknowledge that perhaps they should have made their intentions more clear. For the record, Burson-Marstellar said that they violated their own policies and that they should have declined the assignment in the first place.
It seems that Burson-Marstellar contacted Christopher Soghoian, a well known blogger in security circles and online privacy to write a post blaming Google for a “sweeping violation of user privacy.”
Soghoian wanted to know who the piece would be for, but John Mercruio, who works for Burson-Marstellar wouldn’t tell him. Soghoian in turn posted the entire email exchange online.
Instead, they published an article on the PR firm’s attack of Gmail privacy. Newsweek’s tech editor, Dan Lyons, finally figured out that the client in question wasn’t Microsoft or Apple, but Facebook.
This is rather embarrassing for Facebook, who has struggled to keep the public opinion high and one of trust for the company. However, it’s really bad for Burson-Marstellar.
This huge PR firm has had numerous corporate clients in its 58-year history and this is really a large black eye on its reputation.