Facebook has admitted hiring a PR firm to raise concerns about Googleâ€™s privacy practices. The campaign backfired though when an agent from the firm was caught trying to â€œhelpâ€ a prominent blogger write a critical piece on one of Googleâ€™s services, according to The Daily Beast.
The PR firm is Burson-Marsteller. The blogger is Chris Soghoian. A Burson agent approached him to write a piece on Googleâ€™s Social Circle, a network of social connections that Google uses to deliver relevant search results. The Burson rep even offered to help write the piece and approached other news organizations, including USA Today, with similar offers.
Soghoian declined and instead decided to publish some of the emails from Burson. (Theyâ€™re available here.) In one email, the Burson rep directly attacks Google, saying, â€œGoogle, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of Americaâ€™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.â€
The email goes on to describe Googleâ€™s service as the â€œlatest tool designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users - in a direct and flagrant violation of its agreement with the FTC.â€
When Soghoian asked who was paying for this campaign, the Burson representative refused to name the firmâ€™s client. A Facebook representative confirmed to The Daily Beastâ€˜s Dan Lyons that the company hired Burson for two reasons: â€œFirst, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Googleâ€™s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.â€
Itâ€™s one thing to publicly voice your concern about another companyâ€™s privacy practices - Microsoft, Google and Facebook have been throwing jabs at each other for some time now - but hiring a PR agent to try to influence bloggers to write negative press about a competitor - thatâ€™s a PR catastrophe of the highest degree.
[via The Daily Beast, USA Today]
Author: / Posted: 13-05-2011