Facebook caught attempting to smear Google

Facebook found itself doing damage control Thursday after it was revealed the company had attempted to create negative press for Google. Two employees of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller had endeavored to pitch stories over the search giant's privacy issues.

News of the botched effort was broken by The Daily Beast's Dan Lyons on Wednesday night. Without specifying how, Lyons said evidence pointed to the social networking site as being the mysterious client of Burson-Marsteller's, and the company admitted to doing so.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company hired the firm in order to fight back against Google's planned Social Circle, which uses some of Facebook's data. In addition, it believes that the Mountain View, Calif. company's efforts in social networking raise some privacy concerns.

Jim Goldman, a former tech reporter for CNBC, and former political reporter John Mercurio were behind the pitches. One of the bloggers they pitched to -- blogger and privacy expert Chris Soghoian -- ended up publishing Mecurio's e-mails to him online, blowing the lid off the effort.

Goldman and Mercurio knew what they were doing apparently, and weren't going for any rinky-dink publication -- they aimed for widespread distribution and suggested the story be pitched to Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call or the Huffington Post.

It got worse Tuesday when USA Today revealed that Burson had repeatedly pitched it a similar story, and blasted his efforts following research that much of the claims pushed by Burson's representatives were false.

In the end, is Google's Social Circle ripping off Facebook? Not really. As Lyons points out, what the site is doing is much like what it already does with Google News. Facebook data would be aggregated and presented in a similar manner under a "secondary connections" function.

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