Grab some popcorn and pull up a chair because there’s nothing quite like a conspiracy story that involves Facebook hiring a high-profile PR firm to spread a smear campaign about Google to the mainstream media.
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.
We could stop right there and this would be a juicy enough story, but it gets better. Not only is the company behind this anti-Google media campaign none other than Facebook–pot calling the kettle black, anyone?–but apparently Facebook has admitted it hired Burson-Marsteller to run the negative campaign.
Again, Facebook has admitted it:
Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.
Look, I’m the poster child for being Radically Transparent, but someone at Facebook needs to know when to shut-up. Agreed, Facebook shouldn’t have started this campaign in the first place, but to go on record admitting to it? It’s not like Facebook came forward with a mea culpa. It didn’t apologize for such a bone-headed move. It practically bragged about it and then tried to justify its actions!
My hat is off to Dan Lyons. While other journos flapped around in the wind–trying to guess who was behind this attempted reputation hit–Dan did what appears to have been too Occams Razor-like for most reporters: he flat out asked Facebook.
Not that it took Sherlock Holmes sleuthing to put two and two together. USA Today, which uncovered half the plot, practically stumbled over the reason why it should have pointed fingers at Facebook:
Even so, Google has set out to emulate Facebook by using tracking programs and algorithms to connect more members from the top social networks to Gmail users. “Google wants access to the dollars that Facebook is getting,” Lee says. “They’re trying to create a product that comes closer to mirroring Facebook’s ability to target specific groups of people for advertisers.”
Oh, it’s on!