Facebook hires a PR firm for a smear campaign against Google

By on May 15, 2011
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Has the making of the sequel of last year’s blockbuster.

It has all the elements that Arron sorken might require was he to write a sequel to last year’s critically acclaimed and box office success”The Social Network.”  The information that came out last week proved to be nothing short of shocking. In summary, Facebook hired a PR company Burson-Marsteller to contact bloggers and authors with the intention of writing stories for them against Google’s Social Circles, a feature of Gmail that gathers information about your contacts based on their email addresses, inviting you to connect with them via social networks.

Burson-Marsteller sent emails and letters to online advocates who support privacy, attempting to enlist their support for the campaign. The firms reached out to Christopher Soghoian, a known online privacy advocate, telling him that if he participated they would guarantee his work would end up in The Washington Post, Politico, The Huffington Post or similar publications:

“I wanted to gauge your interest in authoring an op-ed this week for a top-tier media outlet on an important issue that I know you’re following closely. The topic: Google’s sweeping violations of user privacy. Google, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America’s Internet users. Not a year has gone by since the founding of the company where it has not been the focus of front-page news detailing its zealous approach to gathering information – in many cases private and identifiable information – about online users,” Burson-Marsteller wrote in an email to Soghoian.

Soghoian however was suspicious. He wanted to know who was backing the op-ed and who had paid the PR firm for their services. It was also later revealed that USA Today, CNBC and other media outlets, after having been approached by Burson-Marsteller, were poised to run a number of stories on Google’s Social Circle features with a focus on privacy violations.

“Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson[-Marsteller], 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,” said The Daily Beast.

While many have expressed concerns over Google’s Social Circles feature and possible privacy issues, Lyons argued Facebook appears less concerned about privacy and more concerned about competition from Google.


About

Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of tbreak.com and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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