Surprised? Probably not.
Last night, a spokesperson (man) for Facebook confirmed that Facebook paid a top PR firm (Burson-Marsteller) to spread anti-Google stories across the media raising allegations that Google was violating user privacy. Burson-Marsteller even offered to help blogger Chris Soghoian write a collaborative piece about Social Circle, a service that allows Gmail users to access information of friends of their friends (referred to as secondary connections). Social Circle was the forefront of Facebook’s smear campaign. In a pitch to journalists, Burson described the tool as: “The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloging and broadcasting every minute of every day-without their permission.”
Soghoian thought that Burson-Marsteller was “making a mountain out of a molehill,” so he decided to prod them about which company they might be working for. When Burson refused to reveal his sources Soghoian went public and published all of the e-mails correspondence between him and the PR firm. USA Today picked up on the story, before concluding that any claims of a smear campaign were unfounded. Facebook’s confession came later after The Daily Beast’s Dan Lyons confronted the company with the necessary evidence to prove of its involvement. A Facebook spokesman said the social network hired Burson to do its dirty work for two reasons: it genuinely believes that Google is violating consumer privacy and it also suspects that its rival “may be improperly using data they have scraped about Facebook users.” Google has yet to comment on the story saying that “it still needs more time to wrap its head around everything” not a bad “no comment”…well played Google.