San Francisco – Facebook has acknowledged that it hired
public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to run a public relations campaign against Google (NASD: GOOG), encouraging media outlets to run stories and op-eds criticizing
the company’s protection of consumer privacy, CNET and others reported. The
campaign targeted Google Social Circle, a Gmail feature that helps users make
social connections via Google contacts. USA Today first reported on
the "whisper campaign" — its reporters having been targeted by Burson-Marsteller to write
such a negative article about Google — but they found the claims of lax privacy
"proved largely untrue."
Facebook has since acknowledged that it
hired Burson-Marsteller for the campaign.
"No ‘smear’ campaign was
authorized or intended. Instead, we wanted third parties to verify that people
did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on
Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles — just as
Facebook did not approve of use or collection for this purpose," Facebook
said in a statement.
"We engaged Burson-Marsteller to focus attention on
this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently
verified by any media organization or analyst. The issues are serious and we
should have presented them in a serious and transparent way."