Facebook vs. Google in a rare PR disaster

3 years ago by in Travel

f5a5700b72ed68bbd8a543a0fe3b40e71 Facebook vs. Google in a rare PR disaster

Photo by Codemastersnake

It all resembles spy stories and behind-the-scenes raw politics. Even Richard Nixon was mentioned at some point. What’s all about? Facebook tried to direct an under-the-radar attack at Google, by planting rotten stories in the media, but was denied and exposed to the public.

Facebook hired a huge PR company, Burson-Marsteller, to reach to big media outlets (like USA Today) and influential bloggers. The purpose was to plant stories about Google’s supposed user privacy breaches. Was Facebook going to publicly assume this attack? Of course not.

But it had to, in the end. And the one man who forced the social-network giant to reveal its cunning intentions is nobody else than a mere blogger. A famous one, it’s true, that has a journalistic background as well. How did it all go?

Burson-Marsteller was hired by Facebook to convince the media to write about Google’s invasion of people’s privacy. The PR company reached to an influential blogger in the tech world, Chris Soghoian, and – without naming the paying client – asked him to write a piece on this topic. The article was going to be published, with influence from the PR experts, in big media outlets like The Washington Post, Politico and The Huffington Post.

The blogger asked who the client was and, when denied an answer, decided to publish the whole e-mail conversation.

In the meantime, Burson-Marsteller pressured USA Today to publish something on the topic, but the newspaper chose to do the opposite, and write exactly about the pressures of the PR company, which was still refusing to name its client.

The mystery was solved by another blogger, Daniel Lyons, a technology editor at Newsweek that has also worked for 10 years at Forbes and was the creator of the Fake Steve Jobs blog in 2006.

He cancelled the rumors that pointed to Apple or Microsoft and indicated Facebook as the plot’s mastermind. A Facebook spokesman soon confirmed.

Now Facebook and the PR company started a “your, no, your fault” game, with the Internet company saying it didn’t authorize a smear campaign, while the PR company says it shouldn’t have accepted Facebook’s request to keep its name a secret.

Why was Facebook so upset, after all? It seems that some of the information that shows up under “secondary connections” in Google’s Social Circle is content pulled from Facebook. In other words, Google would use Facebook’s data to build its own social network system. Google has not made any comments on the matter, so far.

And so, everybody got a rare glimpse inside the difficult relationship between two companies with a very “friendly” public image. It was also a good example on how to not tackle a privacy issue in a time when nothing seems to really stay secret for ever. [AP via JapanToday, DailyBeast]