It bothered me a bit when Google declined to comment on Facebook’s treachery in what I’ll hammily call Social Circle Gate last week.
For those who missed it, Facebook fessed up to hiring Burson-Marstellar to plant stories about Google infringing on user privacy with Social Circle, a feature that scrapes Google Account users’ connections to help improve Google Social Search.
The feature is the quickest path for Google to map out a social graph, considered crucial for the company’s social network services going forward.
Google declined to respond to two of my queries for comment. For those who did get a response, it was something along the lines of “we have to think about it before we respond.”
After analyzing the case Saturday, I believed Google was correct in letting Facebook stew as the media blogosphere raked it over the white-hot coals of contempt. Google would respond when media ceased bashing Facebook or at least giving it a passionate comeuppance, upbraiding and what-for.
Having more time to think on it, I believe Google shouldn’t respond at all.
Google, formerly a media darling, has been more intensely scrutinized by the media in the last couple years, both for its Google Buzz and Street View privacy failures.
Google has also grown big enough to attract broad antitrust concern from companies it swats aside with its be-everything-to-everyone-on-the-Web-and-sell-more-ads strategy and regulators.
In this case, the media is collectively and firmly on Google’s side. TechCrunch, no stranger to calling a spade a spade, characterized Facebook’s behavior as “slimy.”
Google has taken the high road, while Facebook is thrashing in the throes of petty douchebaggery after issuing a statement claiming that it has not engaged in a smear campaign.
We the media disagree, and while Google is within its right to respond — indeed, some of us have clamored for it — I think it should just sit back and keep handing Facebook the rope with which it is hanging itself in the public sphere.
At the end of the day though, consumers don’t care about this little PR war. People won’t leave Facebook, nor should they. Heck, neither Google nor anyone else has a social network for them to flock to.
Media will just likely trust the company that much less when it points the finger at Google over privacy issues, competitive behavior or anything else. Facebook’s word is now taken with a hearty helping of skepticism.