PR firm tried to whip up story accusing Google of "sweeping violations of privacy"
The bitter rivalry between Facebook and Google has reached a new low after the social network was fingered trying to instigate a smear campaign against Google.
Facebook has been accused of trying to plant a story attacking Google's alleged violations of user privacy - ironic given its own track record on user privacy.
The underhand tactics emerged after a week of mysterious rumblings in Silicon Valley over an email proposing a story - “Google Quietly Launches Sweeping Violation of User Privacy” - landed in the inbox of an influential blogger.
In the mail, multinational PR company Burson-Marsteller outlined a series of ways in which it claimed Google was abusing user privacy and said it could get the story placed in a high-profile publication.
“I was thinking about the Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call or the Huffington Post,” said John Mercurio in the email.
When the PR company behind the email declined to explain which company it was working for when it proposed the article, blogger Christopher Soghoian declined and posted the email exchange online.
From there, the trail was picked up by USA Today, who had also been offered the story, but the mystery remained - who was behind the smear tactics?
The backer – according to the Daily Beast – turned out to be Facebook, with the publication claiming that the social network had confirmed it had hired Burson-Marsteller to do its dirty work.
The social network was reportedly angry because Google's Social Circle - a tool for gathering information about friends of friends - was raiding Facebook data.
According to the report, Facebook went on the offensive “first, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns and secondly, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service”.
We've asked Facebook to confirm or deny its involvement, but the company has yet to come back to us.