Market Overview

Google Looking for Dislike Button on Facebook


Facebook's recent admission that it hired a public relations firm to spread the word about privacy issues at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has left both companies looking foolish.

A Facebook spokesman confirmed that Facebook hired public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller to “encourage” media outlets to write anti-Google stories, specifically urging them to look in to claims that Google is invading people's privacy.

Facebook gave two reasons for why it decided to play the Richard Nixon role in this modern version of Watergate: The Musical. First, Facebook believes that Google is engaging in some social networking practices that are violating the privacy of its users. Second, Facebook dislikes (to say it mildly) that Google is trying to use Facebook's data in its own, competing social-networking service.

The service under fire is a Google element called “Social Circle”. Social Circle has a feature which allows Gmail account users to see information about their friends, much like Facebook offers. Where it gets a little sketchy is that Social Circle allows users to also see the information of friends of friends. Google calls these friends of friends “secondary connections”. Facebook calls them worrisome, and hired the PR firm to spread the word about the practice.

Burson-Marsteller doesn't walk away from this battle unscathed. For one, they managed to undertake a secretive project and then keep it...not a secret. That might harm their efforts to retain current clients and pursue new ones, not to mention it might make them look a little foolish this week.

Probably the only one who walks away from the fiasco with any sense of dignity is Chris Soghoian, the blogger who was contacted by Burson-Marsteller to write an op-ed piece, and then published their conversation after Burson wouldn't say who their client was. He's certainly a hero to those who value openness and the free exchange of information across the globe.

Posted-In: News Rumors Movers & Shakers Topics Legal General Best of Benzinga


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