Facebook taking heat over anti-Google PR campaign


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It's one of the hottest stories in the tech sphere right now, breaking on the Daily Beast

Dan Lyons reported that Facebook paid a heavy-hitting DC public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, to push stories that cast Google ( GOOG ) in a negative light in newspapers and online media. Burson's angle was that one of Google's new features, Social Circle , violated privacy standards and gathered a massive amount of personal information.

That's a somewhat ironic charge coming from Facebook, probably one of the world's largest private repositories of personal information. 

Once the story broke, an abashed Burson-Marsteller published an acknowledgement and mea culpa, saying "Whatever the rationale, this was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined. When talking to the media, we need to adhere to strict standards of transparency about clients, and this incident underscores the absolute importance of that principle."

The social network, meanwhile, asserted that it only hired the PR firm " to focus attention on this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently verified by any media organization or analyst."

Google and Facebook have come into more direct competition in recent  years, as Google tries (and usually fails) to break into the social network model while Mark Zuckerberg's firm chips away at the search engine's dominance of online advertising.

Indeed, Facebook nabbed the coveted "most visited site" status  from Google last year, and Google's own ad planning service lists  the site as the most popular, with 590,000,000 users and 770,000,000,000 pageviews. While there's definitely a symbiotic element in the relationship between the two, the decreasing level of anonymity and the increasing importance of social connectivity seems to give Facebook a bit of an edge in certain areas.

For now, though, it's Mark Zuckerberg & Co. with egg on their faces.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: News Headlines , Technology , US Markets

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