Both Facebook and Google have been under public and legal scrutiny for years, with their oft-updated privacy policies a fertile ground for ethical battles and litigation. Now, a juicy revelation by an online privacy and security researcher, Chris Soghoian, has shown a rather nasty facet of the industry’s rarely seen underbelly – a full-on smear campaign by Facebook that attempted to place negative articles about Google’s privacy policies in mass media.
Facebook has admitted to hiring Burson-Marsteller, a leading PR firm in the U.S., to discredit Google’s privacy policies. Burson-Marsteller was tasked with secretly approaching major media outlets, and ask them to print these biased stories about Google without revealing their client’s identity. When they approached Soghoain, he pretended to be interested, and got enough details to realize that Facebook was behind the move, before speaking out to the global press.
Speaking about the move, Soghian told reporters: “I think this incident reveals that Facebook now believes that Google is a threat to them, and is scared enough to try to covertly stab them in the back. This is the most surprising and interesting aspect of this scandal.”
[RELATED_ARTICLE]For now, who else was contacted, and if they've printed any stories because of the Burson-Marsteller campaign, is still unknown. Google's latest product in the social side of things has been the addition of its 1 button, and this is apparently one of the catalysts for Facebook's underhandedness. The main issue of course is the lack of a simple exchange system between the two giants, with users having to use complicated methods to import Google contacts into Facebook, and Facebook contacts into Google. Both companies have provided ways and means to do this, with Google Social Circle the latest attempt.
As noted by other blogs, however, Facebook’s anti-Google fiasco is just one of the many such campaigns, just one that was revealed to public scrutiny. Motives behind the deal are obvious, Facebook wanted to discredit its biggest competitor. However, Burson-Marsteller apparently had something to gain from the affair apart from revenue – they are a part of ICOMP, one of the primary accusers in the net-neutrality and anti-trust cases that Google is currently fighting. Lobbying is nothing new, and with the potential of smearing on the web, all this teaches us, and you, is to take media reports with a pinch of salt, and see the larger picture before aligning yourself.