One of the world's biggest PR firms pitched anti-Google stories to newspapers and bloggers in what appeared to be an attempt to smear the search giant. Who could have hired them: Apple? Microsoft? Turns out it was Facebook, as a spokesman for the company confirmed last night. The bizarre move escalates the war between the two companies, and makes Facebook—which previously seemed "so invincible"—look "clumsy" and "a little bit afraid," writes Dan Lyons in the Daily Beast. Facebook's main beef with Google appears to be Google's use of Facebook data in its own new social networking operation.
Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller, which has worked with both Bill and Hillary Clinton in its 58-year history, to do the dirty work. Two Burson flacks, former reporters both, pushed negative stories about Google's foray into social networking to multiple outlets, claiming Social Circle, a tool that lets Gmail users see info about their friends and their friends' friends, violated privacy. USA Today looked into the privacy claims, wasn't convinced, and accused the PR firm of spreading a "whisper campaign." Lyons thinks Facebook's "pious handwringing" about privacy might be a "smokescreen. What really seems to be angering Facebook is that some of the stuff that pops up under 'secondary connections' in Google’s Social Circle is content pulled from Facebook," he writes, concluding that the whole incident is simply "embarrassing" for Mark Zuckerberg & Co. Click for his full piece.