Did Facebook run an anti-Google smear campaign?

One of the time-tested ways of deflecting criticism is blaming what you’re being accused of on the other guy.

Today in tech news, one of the stories I’ve seen bounced around centers on allegations Facebook engaged in a crafty campaign to accuse Google of being loose and free with GMail user data. Hmm… that sounds a bit like accusations I’ve heard lobbed at another tech giant… >scratches head< Anyway, the interesting thing is that the interpretation of the available information seems to draw two different conclusions.

To wit, ComputerWorld concludes, “Caught! Facebook admits running anti-Google campaign,” while ABC decides that, “Facebook Denies ‘Smear’ Campaign Against Google” is the more fitting headline. But curiously, both stories center around the following statement about the PR push to educate users about Google’s “Social Circles,” snipped from the CW piece:

“No ‘smear’ campaign was authorized or intended,” a Facebook spokesman wrote. “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 brouhaha was born from a string of emails between blogger Christopher Soghoian and PR firm Burson-Marsteller where the latter attempted to plant stories about Google’s Social Circles, and the PR firm admits to asking for Facebook’s name to remain “out of it.” And as we know, PR firms are paid insane amounts of money to boost the profile of their clients, which in this situation, would be Facebook… hmmm. Whatever the truth is in this situation, it does seem like a massive PR fail.

Do you think any less of Facebook after the admission? It’s not gonna make you any less likely to use it, is it?