The cat is out of the bag now. Facebook has been busted for hiring a major public relations firm to secretly bash Google. The firm was hired to plant stories both on the web via the blogosphere and in the print media, questioning Google’s policies for handling personal data.
Look folks, using social media to promote your own agenda, promote your products, promote your business, whatever, is a great idea. If, however, you try to use it to BASH your competition it is going to blow up in your face. Social media is, by definition, social. Just like with real world gossip, someone is going to overhear you whispering and pass it around to everyone else. Which is what happened when the PR firm Facebook hired tried to coerce a blogger to write an op-ed bashing Google. The blogger went public and published the e-mails they had received.
This is definitely going to give Facebook bad karma.
Earlier this week, USA Today reported that an as-yet-unnamed company had hired Burson-Marsteller to pitch prominent news outlets on the potential privacy and legal issues surrounding Google’s Social Circle feature.
Social Circle allows users to see information that’s publicly available for those they’re connected with in Google Chat and Contacts. The information includes links to others’ Facebook accounts, Twitter feeds, and personal Web sites. Social Circle also allows for access to information of friends of friends, called Secondary Connections.
Just last fall, Google and Facebook engaged in a public and bitter sparring match over how much user data they’re willing to share–whether, say, Facebook users could automatically import Gmail contacts, or Google’s search engine could index Facebook data.
Burson-Marsteller’s recent pitch to at least one blogger included language such as this: “The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloging and broadcasting every minute of every day–without their permission.”
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