Top public relation firm Burson-Marsteller was hired to drive a negative PR campaign against Google, specifically targeted at their Social Circles and claiming privacy concerns. The Daily Beast recently broke the story that in fact it was Facebook who hired this PR firm that has been attempting (largely unsuccessfully) to spread anti-Google stories among media outlets.
The attempts at getting negative PR exposure seem to have been fairly clumsy, though whether that’s from fault of Burson or because the information he was paid to distribute was just too far from the truth remains up for debate.
The first problem happened when Bruson tried to encourage a popular and respected blogger to write a piece about Google’s social circles and privacy concerns, with promises to get it placed in mainstream media. Burson even offered to help write the piece. The blogger asked who had hired Burson, and when Burson wouldn’t say, the blogger posted the email exchange, publicly outing Burson.
Then USA Today published a story about how Burson “stepped up a whisper campaign” that included trying to get USA Today to publish anti-Google stories, which USA Today decided against after finding insufficient merit to the stories. Amusingly, Burson then declined to comment on the USA Today story about his campaign.
Facebook was finally revealed as the culprint that hired the PR firm, displaying a surprisingly large fear of Google as a competitor in social media — especially given Google’s historically poor performance with their attempts to enter the social market.
The Full Story Behind Facebook Accusations
Ultimately the privacy concern accusations that Facebook hired a top PR firm to secretly launch are pretty untrue. All of the information that Google has about your social connections is information that Facebook deliberately makes publicly available to search engines — some of it information that Facebook requires you to make public.
Danny Sullivan wrote a fantastic rundown of the full story behind the Facebook accusations, which I strongly recommend you check out if you’re interested in learning more. In it he pulls a wealth of information from Facebook itself, demonstrating that every privacy concern they complain about is information they have deliberately made public in attempts to attract search engine listings.
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