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Friday, 13 May 2011 10:35

Facebook admits smear campaign against Google

Written by Nick Farell


PR outfit tasked with dirty deeds
Social notworking site Facebook has admitted that it hired a PR outfit to smear Google.

According to the Telegraph Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller,which is a PR outfit owned by Sir Martin Sorrell's group, to place negative stories about Google in the US press. Since the news broke, Burson Marsteller has terminated its contract with Facebook.

What it did was approach a well known blogger, Christopher Soghoian, who blogs about security. They suggested that it might be a good idea to investigate Google's privacy policy. If he did it, they would get anything he discovered published on influential sites such as The Huffington Post and The Washington Post. If that proved too difficult Burson-Marsteller even offered to help the blogger write the story. They told him that the great unwashed in the US must be made aware of how Google was intruding in their personal lives by cataloguing and broadcasting every minute of every day—without their permission."

Soghoian said no. He thought Burson-Marsteller was making a mountain out of a molehill. To make matters more embarrassing he posted the emails online showing what the company had been trying to do. USA Today accused Burson of spreading a "whisper campaign" about Google for an unknown client. However Fake Steve Jobs, and former SCO supporter, Dan Lyons, found evidence to prove it was Facebook. The Social Notowrking outfit confessed Lyons that it had done so. Lyons wrote in his Daily Beast column Facebook did it because it believes that Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns. It is also miffed because Facebook resents Google's attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.

Of course the irony of Facebook trying to smear Google with a privacy row seems to be lost on the US press. Lyons does not suggest, for example, that Facebook might have been trying to distract the world from its own privacy woes by passing the attention onto its rival. A spokesman for Burson Marsteller said that clandestine mud slinging was not at all its standard operating procedure and is against our policies. He said that the assignment should have been declined.

Nick Farell

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