Facebook has admitted hiring a PR firm to seed anti-Google news, in an attempt to raise alarm over the search giant’s policies toward user privacy. The social network – and public relations firm Burson-Marsteller – confirmed to The Daily Beast that it had offered journalists assistance in writing critical newspaper articles about Google invading privacy.
News of the smear campaign first came to light when one of the journalists approached revealed his correspondence with Burson-Marsteller after the company refused to disclose which client had retained them. ”The American people” the PR firm wailed “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.” USA Today is also believed to have been pressured to feature Google-sniping content, though the Burson-Marsteller employees responsible for the pitches refused to comment any further once the newspaper investigated and discovered the claims were exaggerated.
For its part, Facebook claims both legitimate concerns about Google’s attitude toward privacy in social network products, along with a growing resentment regarding how Google is attempting to use Facebook data in those fledgling services. Among the products causing particular argument is Google’s Social Circle, which pulls in friend-of-a-friend information through Gmail, and which Burson described as “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.”
Facebook reckons its users profiles are being scraped as part of that gathering process, something it says contravenes its terms of service. Google has begged time to consider a response.