“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.
The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google “on behalf of an unnamed client.””
“The PR firm is Burson-Marsteller. The blogger is Chris Soghoian. A Burson agent approached him to write a piece on Google’s Social Circle, a network of social connections that Google uses to deliver relevant search results. The Burson rep even offered to help write the piece and approached other news organizations, including USA Today, with similar offers.
Soghoian declined and instead decided to publish some of the emails from Burson. (They’re available here.) In one email, the Burson rep directly attacks Google, saying, “Google, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America’s Internet users. Not a year has gone by since the founding of the company where it has not been the focus of front-page news detailing its zealous approach to gathering information -– in many cases private and identifiable information — about online users.”
The email goes on to describe Google’s service as the “latest tool designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users –- in a direct and flagrant violation of its agreement with the FTC.”
When Soghoian asked who was paying for this campaign, the Burson representative refused to name the firm’s client. A Facebook representative confirmed to The Daily Beast‘s Dan Lyons that the company hired Burson for 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.””
This is what I thought about the whole situation:
Maybe if there was a 5GW fan page on Facebook they might have done a better job.