If there is one company in recent times that comes to mind when user privacy issues are concerned, it’s Facebook. It hasn’t had a very credible past as far as user data is concerned. It has been in the news for the wrong reasons many times, be it because of Beacon, its targeted advertising system or because of the allegations by Julian Assange that Facebook is a spy machine for U.S. intelligence agencies.
Compared to Facebook, Google’s track record has been better when it comes to privacy. However, Google’s social attempts haven’t been able to limit the rise of Facebook. Facebook has been hiring away top talent at Google with ease, and has also refused to make its data available to Google for its search results. Google has tried to beat Facebook several times, but has failed consistently, its last attempt being the Google +1 button.
Which is why it’s surprising that Facebook would try to launch a smear campaign against Google. They absolutely didn’t need to, but they did and failed at it. This is what happened, according to a report in the Daily Beast:
“For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.
The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a whisper campaignabout Google on behalf of an unnamed client.
But who was the mysterious unnamed client? While fingers pointed at Apple and Microsoft, The Daily Beast discovered that it’s a company nobody suspectedâ€”Facebook.”
Soon after this report ran, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that they had indeed hired Burson-Marsteller. Google recently launched Social Circle, a tool which lets people see information about their friends, as well as their friends’ friends, or their secondary connections. Some of the data in Social Circle is content scraped from the user’s Facebook profile. Apparently, this is what angered Facebook so much that it was willing to go up against Google with such a bold move.
The truth is, Facebook has been perceived as the next Google, while Google has been called the next Microsoft. Google has hardly been able to compete with Facebook in social networking and it’s highly improbable that that’s going to change anytime soon. But this move by Facebook shows that 1. They are scared of Google and 2. They are willing to do whatever it takes to keep Google away from their walled garden.
Google may be wrong in trying to scrape data from Facebook profiles, but Facebook indulging in such tactics is much wronger, and just goes on to show that Facebook is getting increasingly scared of Google, now that Google, under the new leadership of Larry Page, has set its crosshairs on Facebook, focusing on improving its own social offerings.