It didn't take long for the finger pointing to begin once word leaked that a competitor was secretly working to damage Google's image in the public sphere. While Apple and Microsoft were the prime suspects, a more unlikely culprit -- Facebook -- has now admitted to hiring a PR firm to spread lies and to encourage negative editorial coverage.
Business Insider has more:
For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.
Facebook's covert plan imploded when the blogger refused Burson's offer and, instead, exposed the company's plans. Word leaked when the blogger posted his e-mails (you can read them here) with John Mercurio (of Byrson-Marsteller). One of Mercurio e-mails reads as follows:
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.
Interestingly, Facebook has had its own set of privacy issues. Back in Oct. 2010, Facebook admitted privacy concerns with its applications. And, let's not forget the major backlash Facebook faced over its privacy policies in early 2010.
According to Business Insider, Facebook's anti-Google PR campaign focused on Social Circle, a tool that "...lets people with Gmail accounts see information not only about their friends but also about the friends of their friends, which Google calls 'secondary connections.'" Burson's pitch to journalists claimed that Social Circle was:
“...designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users—in a direct and flagrant violation of [Google's] agreement with the FTC.”
The campaign's public exposure is surely embarrassing. Mashable writes that it's common for these major new media and technology companies to spar and "throw jabs," but that this sort of campaign and subsequent leak is "...a PR catastrophe of the highest degree."
Considering Google's competitive nature and the inroads the company is currently making in the new and social media realm, Facebook may, indeed, have a lot to fear.