May 152011
 
Google Silent As Media Rips Facebook Over Social Circle
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Page 1 of 2 )

While the
media echo chamber continues to rage around Facebook for its hiring of public
relations firm Burson-Marstellar to engage in a smear campaign against Google
over its social-data collection, the search-engine giant has remained largely
silent.

While Google
acknowledged seeing evidence of Facebook’s stunt, it has taken the high road as
it prepares its response.

eWEEK and most
other media outlets covering this issue attended Google I/O with several Google
executives who, no doubt, are quietly stewing even as the press happily pounds
its social-network rival from down the road into submission.

Google has
weathered two major privacy stormsone for Google Buzz, one for Street Viewin
the past year-plus to be sufficiently chastened and cautious. The last thing it
wants is a new privacy snafu.

For those in
the tech world who may have been living under a rock in the last 48 hours,
green public relations representatives from the venerable Burson-Marstellar
were caught trying to solicit disparaging coverage of Google.

Worse, they
did so on behalf of Facebook, the same company that is being taken
to task by Congress over a new security
flaw that exposes user data, and tried to keep it on the down low.

According to The
Daily Beast
, Burson-Marstellar pitched bloggers and reporters a story
about how Google’s Social Circle
trampled user privacy.

This feature
of Google’s Social Search product lets people with Google accounts see the
Websites with which their friends and their friends of their friends are
associated. The PR people argued this service infringed on users’ privacy
rights by scraping their personal data from other Websites without their
express consent.

These
secondary connections are crucial to help Google build out its own social
graph, something its Google Buzz service has failed to successfully achieve at
scale since its launch in February 2010. Search
Engine Land detailed how this service works.

Burson-Marstellar
pitched this to blogger and privacy advocate Christopher Soghoian, who as a
regular critic of Google’s privacy practices, actually dismissed the
data-scraping practice as minor and posted the pitch online.

The pitch
reads, in a serious, sober tone that Social Circle is “designed to scrape
private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of usersin a
direct and flagrant violation of [Google’s] agreement with the FTC.”

Burson added:
“The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions
into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloging and broadcasting every
minute of every daywithout their permission.”

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