May 13, 2011, 9:21 AM — This just in: Facebook and Google don’t like each other much. How do we know this? Because Facebook hired a very expensive PR firm to plant negative stories about Google in the press.
In case you missed this story, here’s the Readers Digest version: Facebook hired PR mavens-to-the-stars Burson-Marsteller to paint Google Social Circles as the most evil thing to happen since Fox Networks cancelled “Firefly.” From Burson-Marsteller’s email pitch:
Google is collecting, storing and mining millions of people’s personal information from a number of different online services and sharing it without the knowledge, consent or control of the people involved.
The problem: Facebook did this in the stupidest way possible, and tried to do it in secret. Didn’t work. Oops.
[ See also: Would you trust HBGary? I don’t. ]
Got this official comment from a Facebook spokeshuman yesterday:
No 'smear' campaign was authorized or intended. 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 issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.
You and your readers can look at the feature and decide if they have approved of this collection and use of information by clicking here when their Google account is open: http://www.google.com/s2/search/social. Of course, people who do not have Gmail accounts are still included in this collection but they have no way to view or control it.
OK, maybe Facebook had a point. I decided to check it out.
I clicked the link, which brought me to a Google Social Search page. This told me I had 31 direct connections via Google Chat, another 990 via Google Profiles or Connected accounts, and some 2,858 “secondary connections.” These would be people I don’t necesarily know but who are connected to the people I do know.