In an amazing and rare admission of guilt in the world of technology, Facebook has admitted that it hired a public relations company to attempt to smear Google’s good name.
The admission only came about when Facebook was presented with evidence of its involvement in the scheme. In the last few days, it emerged that Burson-Marstellar, a top PR firm, had been hired to pitch anti-Google stories to various journalists urging them to investigate claims that Google was breaching people’s privacy. One email circulated by the PR company said: "The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloguing and broadcasting every minute of every day-without their permission." Burson-Marstellar even said they would help a blogger, Chris Soghoian, write a Google-bashing op-ed piece which would then appear in influential outlets such as the Washington Post and Huffington Post.
Soghoian smelled a rat and tried to find out who was behind these approaches but when he hit a brick wall, he published all the emails between him and the PR company (which can be seen here). USA Today picked up the story and accused an unknown company of hiring Burson-Marstellar of spreading "a whisper campaign” about Google. While numerous companies were suspected, it was The Daily Beast who confronted Facebook with evidence before the social networking giant admitted it was the company who hired Burson-Marstellar.
So why did Facebook do this? They gave two reasons to Dan Lyons from the Daily Beast. “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.” The whole thing seems to be centred on Google’s latest attempt to impinge on Facebook’s turf called Social Circle. This tool allows people with Gmail accounts not only see friends information but also the information of friends of friends - which Google calls “secondary connections.” Facebook believes that Google will use this information to gather a huge database of “deeply personal dossiers millions of users.”Or in other words it's worried Google will steal some of its social networking thunder (not to mention ad revenue).
This signals a new low in the rivalry between Google and Facebook and gives us a glimpse at the extremes huge companies like Facebook are willing to go to, to discredit their competition. Google has yet to respond to the issue saying it is still trying to get its head around the report - which is not surprising.
Source: The Daily Beast