facebook-smear-campaignFacebook has been under fire for quite awhile regarding privacy issues but they’re not alone – Google has also had some privacy issues ranging from gathering identifiable information via WiFi to the problems when Google Buzz was first released. But apparently Facebook wants everyone to join the Google Abuses Privacy bandwagon to take the heat off of them.

After all, Facebook and Google aren’t really frenemies anymore. They’re just straight up enemies now, competing for traffic and advertising revenue. A recent rumor is that Facebook is going to also have a content network to provide their advertisers with an additional way to advertise their CPC and CPM campaigns. In your face, Google.

But Facebook has just committed a pretty serious PR faux-pas. The social media giant hired Burson-Marsteller, a large and prestigious law firm, to plant stories and rumors regarding how Google handles its “Social Circle.” The Social Circle can be accessed when you do a Google Search while signed into your Gmail or Google Account. Part of what Google does is find things shared not only by your contacts but their contacts as well.

face-thats-a-bookFacebook doesn’t like that. And they don’t like that Google wants access to the social graph and tries to scrape Facebook data. Again, this is a heated rivalry between the two companies.

How did it all come to light? Apparently the PR firm (who has represented Bill Clinton and was the chief strategist in Hillary’s presidential campaign), started contacting various outlets and bloggers about a piece that they should pursue regarding Google’s alleged privacy violations. Above and beyond that, they even told one blogger, Chris Soghoian,  that they would help write the story. When Chris asked for the name of the client they were representing, the exec at Burson-Marsteller said he could not disclose it. So Chris decided to post the email exchange between the two of them. Here is an excerpt which describes what Facebook/the PR firm was looking for in the story:

“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.”

After the emails were posted and there was some additional evidence, Facebook was confronted. A spokesperson for Facebook did indeed confirm that this was all true, but of course did it with the spin that Google is violating everyone’s privacy and they’re just trying to protect the people.

Yeah, right.

Unfortunately, this is going to backfire on Facebook. They want people to point fingers and look more critically at Google but the incident will now be forever remembered as the smear campaign that Facebook got red-handed trying to implement. That’s pretty embarrassing.

I market for credit card processing and companies and no one in this industry would try to pull something like that!

Photo Credit #1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/birgerking/5600215736/

Photo Credit #2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/massimobarbieri/3185202042/



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