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Facebook Admits to Google Smear Campaign

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"Define irony. Facebook launching a smear campaign that claims Google excessively invades users' privacy."
-- Steve Buscemi, Con Air.

OK, I may have rented a different copy than yours.

In recent weeks, privacy concerns have been in the front of everyone's mind. Following the revelation that Apple was tracking an iPhone's location data, both it and Google have had to face a congressional hearing regarding their logging of GPS information. At the same time, WikiLeaks founder Jullian Assange spoke out against the rampant privacy invasion perpetrated by Facebook -- a service he dubbed the "most appalling spying machine ever invented."

What Assange didn't mention during his diatribe, however, is just how diabolical Facebook is at passing the privacy invasion buck.

The Daily Beast's Dan Lyons has revealed that Facebook -- not Apple or Microsoft, as previously thought -- was behind a Google smear campaign that claimed Google was invading people's privacy. The social network admitted to hiring top PR firm Burson-Marsteller to plant anti-Google propaganda in several media outlets such as the Washington Post, Politico, and the Huffington Post. A Burson rep even offered to help write the screeds.

It wasn't until blogger Chris Soghoian decided to expose the conspiracy by posting juicy email exchanges with a Burson rep John Mercurio who plotted the attack.

"Google, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America's Internet users," Mercurio writes on one email. "Not a year has gone by since the founding of the company where it has not been the focus of front-page news detailing its zealous approach to gathering information -- in many cases private and identifiable information -- about online users."

A passage that Mercurio could've easily lifted after replacing "Facebook" with "Google."

After exposing the emails, a Facebook representative revealed to Lyons that the company was behind the campaign. Why? Lyons explains, "First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google's attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service."

Hold up. A Facebook rep actually admitted this?

Admitted to being so short-sighted that it can't see the irony in attacking another company's privacy mismanagement? Admitted to being so petty as to become threatened by Google's use of its data? Admitted to being so underhanded as to launch a smear campaign about a competitor? Admitted to being so two-faced that it attempted to influence the media to write anti-Google screeds at its behest? And -- perhaps most telling -- admitted to being so gall-durn stupid as to believe that nobody would expose the whole conspiracy for the even bigger story?

Talk about bad PR.

(See also: Facebook Deemed "Most Appalling Spying Machine Ever Invented" and Apple Surrenders to the "iPhone Tracker" Whiners)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.