It seems that social media giant Facebook — perhaps the least trustworthy of the social media giants — has been caught red-handed using a PR firm to plant wildly exaggerated stories about Google’s privacy violations (via the Daily Beast):
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. Burton 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.”
But who was the mysterious unnamed client? While fingers pointed at Apple and Microsoft, The Daily Beast discovered that it’s a company nobody suspected—Facebook.
Dan Lyons’ piece makes for engrossing reading, and it’s a reminder that Facebook (and most of the other social media companies) trot out the warm puppy images when they’re talking user privacy, but in truth, they’re willing to do pretty much whatever they can get away with to win in the competitive social media space.
Users often seem blissfully unconcerned about privacy issues, though maybe this particular PR nightmare will coax a viable alternative into the open (like the much-hyped Diaspora), offering users and marketers a way to opt out of the madness.
Until then, you pretty much have to go where the crowds are, which means putting your faith in Facebook — something that’s pretty difficult to do given their actions the past several years.
I don’t do business with clients I can’t trust, and I’d rather not associate with companies I can’t believe.
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.