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Facebook caught paying for Google smear campaign

Google and Facebook have had a long history of intense rivalry, however latest news shows that even billion dollar companies will get down and dirty to try and damage their competitor.

Facebook have hired a well known public relations firm to try and get stories planted criticizing Google’s privacy policies. The whole campaign fell on its face however when one blogger declined the assignment, but then went public with the information.

This drama has been carried by every major news publication across the globe and it has seriously backfired on FaceBook as they are now being seen by the public as the more devious of the two companies.

Facebook have said that they never authorised or intended to run any smear campaign against Google. They are saying that they hired Burson-Marsteller to prompt investigations into how a new Google service called Social Circle collects and uses data about people. Facebook said in a statement that it should have made it clear that it was behind the efforts.

Burson-Marsteller have said that Facebook had requested its identity remain secret “on the grounds that it was merely asking to bring publicly available information to light.”

Facebook’s attempts at privacy didn’t work out after Burson Marsteller contacted blogger Christopher Soghoian, an Indiana University graduate student who is well known in online privacy and security circles.

He was asked if he wanted to write an item for ‘a top tier media outlet’ attacking Google for what they called a ‘sweeping violation of user privacy’. When Soghoian asked for the identity of the firms client they wouldn’t reveal it. Soghoian then decided to post the email chain online.

Burson Marsteller also approached USA Today with the story but instead of running with the planned article, USA Today published a story called “PR firm’s attack of Gmail privacy.”

Newsweek tech editor Dan Lyons figured out that the mystery client was not Microsoft or Apple as some people thought, but actually Facebook. Lyons is well known as the writer of The Secret Diary Of Steve Jobs, a blog which has him pretending to be the Apple Chief. Lyon also used to go under the moniker of ‘Fake Steve Jobs’, but the New York Times exposed him in 2007. The blog has been stopped currently out of respect for the real Steve Jobs who is unwell.

Lyon was damning with his views on the matter saying “”The mess, seemingly worthy of a Nixon re-election campaign, is embarrassing for Facebook, which has struggled at times to brand itself as trustworthy. But even more so for Burson-Marsteller, a huge PR firm that has represented lots of blue-chip corporate clients in its 58-year history.”

Facebook have said that they didn’t handle the matter well. “The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.”

KitGuru says: FaceBook will be wiping the egg of their face for some time to come.

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