Facebook, Burson Still Wiping Egg from Their Faces
When Soghoian asked Burson who its client was, it declined to say, citing its client's wish to remain anonymous. Soghoian then took the e-mail pitch public and The Daily Beast pounced. When the Beast story ran, Facebook admitted to being Burson's secretive client, fanning the flames of a long-running media war over social data. Facebook, you see, is peeved that Social Circle provides paths to its social-network users.Facebook also knows Buzz and Street View have forever cast privacy clouds over Google. Pushing the privacy-infringement issue is as easy as clicking one of Facebook's ubiquitous Like buttons.In the aftermath, the media have mercilessly pounded Facebook and its PR cohort, which threw the blame at Facebook's feet, over no-nos in ethical journalism. TechCrunch wisely noted the sleaziness. The New York Times spoke to Tom Goldstein, a journalism professor and expert in ethics at the University of California, Berkeley, who said: "Journalists should announce who they are and people who deal with journalists should announce who they are and where they are coming from." Facebook tried damage control, issuing this statement to eWEEK and others:
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.The one part that rings true in that statement is that Facebook should have presented the issue in a "serious and transparent way." As it stands, the handling of this issue by both Facebook and Burson, and even each company's explanations have been an utter joke. All of this has made Google look more like the victim, a defendant wrongfully accused in court who has been vindicated by evidence of the plaintiffs' gross smear campaign. Which is exactly what this was, contrary to Facebook's position. What will be interesting to see in the coming weeks is whether Google fires back. With Facebook and Burson roasting slowly over the white-hot media spit, it certainly can afford to let things cool down before responding.