Social networking giant Facebook was caught playing dirty. It is revealed by Don Lyons that Facebook have engaged top PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, to plant negative news about Google. Facebook confirmed this and stated the following reasons for the engagement:
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.
For the past week, Burson-Marsteller has been trying to get top media outlets to publish negative news about Google Gmail feature called Social Circles. According to this article on USA Today:
Pushed by two high-profile media figures — former CNBC news anchor Jim Goldman and former political columnist John Mercurio, both of whom recently joined Burson — the whisper campaign illustrates how privacy has become a lightning-rod issue. Goldman pitched the Social Circle issue as a huge privacy breach to Google users and an important story for consumers.
Now, we know that both Burson Goldman and Mercurio of Burson were on a mission to smear campaign against Google. Busted!
One can only speculate the threat level Facebook assigns to Google’s social ambitions. For the past months, Google has been hard at work weaving its social strategies by making acquisitions and realigned its organizations (among others), to decisively exploit the commercial upside of today’s social web.
Facebook is dumb if they didn’t exploit the weaknesses of its competitors. But it is doubly dumb if its stealthy dirty play was busted. Information wants to be free, especially in the social web, after all.