The blame game is just getting started between Facebook and Google. As reported earlier today, Facebook admitted to hiring Burson-Marsteller, one of the world's biggest rumor factories, to spread an allegation that Google was actively violating users' privacy. The Daily Beast called it a "clumsy smear" campaign when they broke the news this morning and pretty much everyone on the Internet agreed.
After the volley of blog posts about the affair settled down a bit, Facebook told The Huffington Post:
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. 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.
Hiring a PR firm to help write and disseminate negative blog posts about Google certainly sounds like a smear campaign. Burson fessed up to the wrong-doing this morning and pushed blame onto Facebook for requiring them to hide the name of their client. Without casting too much judgment on anyone--PR companies are great at that--Burson said, "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."
It's doubtful the public will buy Facebook's repeated denial of wrongdoing in launching the campaign to begin with. Both Burson and Facebook have said that they should have been more transparent, but privacy experts, including the blogger originally asked "to verify that people did not approve of" Google's practices, have asserted that Google's new social tools don't violate any standards. The Next Web's Paul Sawar said it best:
The perplexing thing is Facebook really shouldn’t need to resort to these type of mud-slinging tactics. It’s normally desperate companies on the decline that get involved in these sort of shenanigans.