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Facebook’s Secret Smear Campaign Against Google Backfired

Facebook secretly hired top public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to plant anti-Google stories around the internet, says Dan Lyons in a jaw dropping story at the Daily Beast. 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.

For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.

The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. 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.

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-Marsteller 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.”

According to Facebook spokesperson, Facebook was annoyed about Google’s scraping Facebook content, and are almost certainly violating Facebook’s terms and conditions.

As this smear campaign has been busted, not only has Facebook been shamed but also the PR firm they hired. Next time Facebook should take a page from Google’s playbook when they want to trash a competitor. Catch them in the act and then go toe to toe with them — remember Google vs. Bing.

[Via: The Daily Beast]

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