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Facebook Loses Much Face In Secret Smear On Google (techcrunch.com)
779 points by linuxnow on May 12, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 142 comments

A key saying I provide all my clients with in regards to corporate culture and behaviours: a fish rots from the head.

Usually this means things like 'if the boss is ten minutes late to every meeting, staff will assume it's acceptable for everyone to be ten minutes late to a meeting'.

Given Zuckerbeg's reputation for sneaky behaviour and this example of his PR team, I now have an excellent example to share in the future: 'If the boss uses sneaky, underhanded and/or arrogant methods to launch 'his' business, staff will assume it's acceptable for them to use sneaky underhanded and/or arrogant methods to promote it'.

> I now have an excellent example to share in the future

Your comment intuitively seems correct, and I'm inclined to agree with you. But I can't help but wonder if you just end up picking examples that support this claim. Most examples of corporate wrong-doing probably can't be correlated with traits of their CEO (they're just mistakes made by inept, or possibly malicious, individuals or groups).

Statistically, some percentage of corporate wrong-doing will correlate to some event in the CEO's past. I'm not sure that necessarily means that we can point to those cases as proof that a fish rots from the head.

Saying that the "head" has to be the CEO is taking it too far.

In most large companies, you are only aware of the behaviour of the two levels of management above you. If you see your boss or your bosses boss behave in a certain way, you will think that this behaviour is acceptable.

For example, the CEO of some bank might be very long-term, risk free, investement oriented, but if the boss of the trading desk only cares about the next paycheck and is willing to take risks to get his bonus, chances are all the traders will do whatever it takes to get good results without more than a year ahead.

That actually seems counter-intuitive, to me.

I work in a company of about 140k people and I'm far more aware of the CEO than I am my boss or his boss. I don't even know who my boss' boss is or what he does, but I hear about the CEO on a regular basis (beyond just showing up in movies). It seems to me that in a large company, you're aware of your boss and the figureheads and everywhere in-between those two levels are given the gift of obfuscation.

I can't help myself trying to figure out what 140K-employee company has a moviestar CEO. Nevermind.


The personality of the CEO trickles down to the rest of the organization. His VPs take his philosophy to their subordinates, and so on and so forth. Not only that, but the CEO's policy decisions directly affect the culture of an organization.

It seems to me that organizations tend to take on the personality of the strongest person in the chain. EVERY large company has one or two rogue units inside of it that behave very differently (usually for the better) than the overall culture. In each case I've dealt with, there has been a leader who had a tremendously strong personality that drowned out everything above him.

Most of the time, however, middle management tends to reflect and pass-on the tone and traits that the CEO presents just as you say.

It's really an interesting dynamic.

Recursively applying the "pay attention to the two levels above you" rule gets us to "the CEO sets the corporate culture."

Most examples of corporate wrong-doing probably can't be correlated with traits of their CEO (they're just mistakes made by inept, or possibly malicious, individuals or groups).

Nobody expects the CEO to be an angel. What's important is how the CEO reacts when someone under him screws up at the expense of customers, stockholders, or both.

Case in point, the Sony rootkit fiasco. Products go out the door with Sony's name on them, equipped with a 'feature' that would get any of us little people hauled before a judge on criminal charges. Response from the executive suite? Promote the manager responsible to President of the Global Digital Business division. Fast forward a few years, and consumers are still wandering around with confused, vaguely hurt looks on their faces, wondering why they never seem to get a square deal from Sony.

Same situation with Facebook: can a leopard change his spots?

True. It's worth mentioning that this fish-rots-from-the-head theory also applies to Google's top management and their views over privacy.

I think that was a part of Google's problem. There was a schism within top management, including on that topic.

This was my first thought as well. Whether they like it or not, founders are always leading by example.

At least, I can say I called it, when people were blaming Microsoft as behind it.


I wonder what the ex googlers who moved to FaceBook think of such slimy tactics. Might be interesting to hear the perspective of someone who moved from a company that (at least) professes an adherence to "Don't be evil" to a company that apparently has no problems with jumping into the slime. If I worked for Facebook, I'd be ashamed of my employer today (and would probably protest and then get fired!).

And, as someone said above, Facebook professing a concern for abuse of privacy is a bit much to swallow.

It's not like this is the first evil thing Facebook has done.... there might be some who might argue that yanking around Facebook's defaults about users' privacy settings was far worse than using a PR sock puppet.

Personally, I think using (or perhaps we should say, trying to use) a PR sock puppet was cowardly, and trying to bash a competing product by spreading anonymous innuendoes was crass. But not all would agree with me. Some might even say that anything which is not illegal, is OK in our capitalistic society. And as far as I know, no laws were broken. That being said, I am so glad I don't work at Facebook.

Just because something is legal doesn't forbid you from thinking it's cowardly or crass. Facebook are free to do distasteful things, but - and here's the important part - we are free to condemn them for doing so. Forbidding us from sharing our opinions because "hey, it's legal" is a self-defeating argument.

To take this to the extreme, bestiality was legal in Florida up until this week.

My old friend Pig-Fucker, from Deltona, FL, must be very sad.

The ethos of a company derive from that of the founder, this event should be a surprise to no one.

I think the war against a former employer is an interesting position to be in but anybody who actually believes in the "Dont Be Evil" slogan anymore is a fool, even if they work at Google.

It's not that they are evil, but I don't think they are particularly different from any of the other decent corporations out there. When it comes to war (and, yes, this is war), companies will go to extreme lengths to win. This means also using questionable tactics. And I'm talking about Google, Facebook and any other huge player that has lots to lose in a war.

These Xooglers who moved over, surely must have known that they were switching from one team to another. The majority of these people, in the end, probably moved over because of the money/IPO/stock. So I imagine they expect their employer to bring guns to a knife fight.

"When it comes to war (and, yes, this is war"

Spoken like somebody that has never been anywhere near a war. How many casualities have there been in this Google/Facebook war? How many innocent civilians killed as collateral damage? How much forced migration resulting in starvation, out-of-control refugee situations, etc?

Literal much?

OK, fine, "corporate war."

Happy? You must be great at parties.

None of those things define what a war is. They're just unfortunate byproducts of a typical, national war.

I wonder what the ex googlers who moved to FaceBook think of such slimy tactics

stock options non olet, I guess...

_Olent_, optiones facultatum non _olent_. Stock options are plural.

Good ol' Arrington... he's got the courage to call em out. To really stick it to the big guys. It takes guts to say "No More!" to the corrupt and the wicked, even when such a stance might cost you personally.

I was going to comment as such on his blog...

...but I don't have a facebook account. ;)

Wait a minute – this story broke on a blog, and then got picked up by the Daily Beast, and then by Arrington. I guess you could give Arrington credit for spreading this story to his audience, but he doesn't deserve credit for calling Facebook out in the first place.

I think your sarcasm meter may need some tuning. ;)

HN comments are usually so earnest, that I turn my sarcasm meter off here. It goes back on as soon as I leave. ;)

Arrington's playing the numbers game too - more comments on his post means more people posting it to their facebook walls, in this case, I was happy to repost this because of my dislike for everything facebook stands for, despite the fact that I too use it for my own purposes ...

it's almost impossible not to be hypocritical in this day and age unless you live in a mud hut and eat wild berries!

wow, I've never seen that before - you comment through your facebook login? That's... that's just evil.

You can also use Facebook Comments with a Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail account. But not - notice - a Google account.

Yeah ... and that is why I can't leave comments =)

If you seriously don't have a Facebook, Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL account, but do have a Google account, you really ought to take a step out of Google's back pocket and sign up for one of the other huge services on the internet.

I have an Facebook account, but I refuse to use my Facebook account. It is strictly for keeping in touch with friends, not for me to use to sign in to random services, and least of all to use outside of Facebook to leave comments. I have OpenID, and a Google account, those I can use to leave comments, or just give me a couple of text boxes, I'll fill in my name, email and website and comment and click submit like I have always done it.

Facebook is the last company I am going to voluntarily hand more data over to by using their commenting system on various sites.

i can't tell if you're being sarcastic, but it takes a blog and some fu money

Kudos to Christopher Soghoian[1] for releasing the email[2] instead of accepting the offer for cash + high-profile smear publication.

It makes you wonder about the existing op-eds slamming social circles[3,4,5]

   [1] http://www.dubfire.net/
   [2] http://pastebin.com/zaeTeJeJ
   [3] http://www.switched.com/2010/08/09/google-shows-off-how-well-it-knows-your-social-circle/
   [4] http://marketing.about.com/b/2011/03/31/google-wants-you-to-1.htm
   [5] http://librarianbyday.net/2010/03/30/googles-social-circle-social-search-may-not-violate-any-privacy-laws-but-it-gives-me-the-creeps/

Shit, it was Christopher Soghoian? Whoever thought that he would participate in a pay-for-editorial job should be fired. Actually, they have almost certainly already been fired. He's practically built a career on exposing corporate bullshit. If they bothered to read his wikipedia page, they'd note that he has a history of releasing private corporate correspondance that is sent to him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Soghoian

The scary part about this is that Facebook had to screw up this bad to get caught. If they didn't make this blunder, it probably would have worked and nobody would have knew a thing.

Which is probably what happens 99% of the other times.

Wow - I'd never heard of this guy before. What an amazing track record, thanks for linking!

Dollars or street cred - I wonder which the blogger will choose? :)

Wouldn't it be sweet if they did know about his reputation and specifically sent this to him so that Facebook would be found out.

Cool - this idea is being downvoted, maybe you misunderstood my point? If an employee of facebook specifically sought to submit this to this particular reporter knowing that it may result in exposure of this plan to the world...

I hate being downvoted without an explanation. What is wrong with this idea?

The mail wasn't sent by a Facebook employee, it was sent by a PR firm. You know, someone who, by definition, would not do that.

You are correct, though the scenario could still be true in that the PR firm could feign naivete in knowing that the reporter would do this, if so - then brilliant play...

But hasn't the PR firm lost their face too? If the PR had an intent (expose FB's tactics), I wonder if they could have done it differently.

From the Daily Beast article:

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.

So, just to get this straight: Facebook resents that Google use's "Facebook data" in Social Circles, when I as the user have to explicitly allow Google to import my Facebook connections? Shouldn't the user get a say in how their data is used and who uses it?

Actually, you don't explicitly allow Google to import the data. Google does the following:

a) scrape Facebook.com; b) notice that someone named "Roderick Evans" on Facebook is friends with someone named "Danielle Benson" on Facebook; c) notice that someone named Roderick Evans' GMail account has someone named Danielle Benson in his contacts; d) they're done. Your permission is not part of the process.

Your Facebook identity is now associated with your Google profile, and your Google profile gets associated connecting edges, without your permission or notice. If by some miracle you swing by your Google profile, and you notice that your Quora/Twitter/MySpace/Facebook accounts have all suddenly been connected, you can sever them, but I received no notice of the connection beforehand.

At least, that was how it worked for me before I deleted my Google profile. It's described in more flowery terms here: http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?answer...

Doesn't the Facebook user need to allow their connections to be publicly accessed via the Graph API in order for it to be scrape-able in the first place?

The main point here is that Google isn't doing anything with the "Facebook data" that the original user of that data (who actually owns it, let's be fair about that) hasn't approved of in one way or another.

Not sure about the Graph API, but your name, your profile picture, and your contact list are all fully public information and you can't control their visibility.

Are you sure about that? How does one access this info?

If I go to http://graph.facebook.com/<myusername>, the only data that is visible is:

    "id": "...",
    "name": "...",
    "first_name": "...",
    "last_name": "...",
    "username": "...",
    "gender": "male",
    "locale": "en_US"

https://graph.facebook.com/michaelfairley/picture?type=large for the picture.

Friends can be accessed similarly, but require an access token (_any_ access token, not just the user's that you're inspecting.

More details at Facebook's API docs: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/api/user/

Wow. I am shocked that information I explicitly block to users (such as profile picture) are publicly available through a simple URL trick.

Friends can be accessed similarly, but require an access token (_any_ access token, not just the user's that you're inspecting.

This would seem to be a bug if so, according to this page in the FB documentation: To get additional information about a user, you must first get their permission. At a high level, you need to get an access token for the Facebook user. After you obtain the access token for the user, you can perform authorized requests on behalf of that user by including the access token in your Graph API requests:



That's my list of the first 50 people who joined Facebook, using the Graph API & a bit of Java. Look for Saverin, Zuckerberg, Moskovitz & rest of the gang. Its all in there!

Wrote this to find the first million facebook signons.

Are you using your Google account to login to these other services? That API call returns nothing for my address.


No, there's no permission involved on the Google or Facebook side, or at least, there wasn't for me.

My understanding from Google's description above is that they are scraping the logged out facebook.com profiles; your logged out profile has a random selection of friends on it. There are enough of them there for Google to infer that facebook.com/kma (me, who is friends with Nick Schrock, e.g.) is the same Keith Adams as kmadams_at_gmail_dot_com (also me, who also has written emails to someone named Nick Schrock). Without clicking through anything on either site, I started getting little faces in my search results last month saying "So-And-So, your friend on Facebook, shared this on Twitter."

Here's a screenshot of the results I was seeing:


Disclosure: I write code for Facebook. I had nothing to do with this whole thing, and cannot officially speak for FB. It could also be the case that I am in a A/B test Google is performing, etc. This was just my experience. It fits with Google's stated mechanisms for how Social Circles work.

Bravo for Facebook not pulling a lame PR stunt like google when they thought Bing would be stealing their results!

can you point to somewhere talking about facebook accounts getting added, especially without any kind of notification?

I've never heard of that, just easy ones like twitter accounts (which, by the way, required both notification and permission when google asked if it was me and if I wanted my twitter account to be associated with my google profile).

You have to confirm your account first before it gets added to your profile.

You do get a say - you got a say that Facebook could have your data. At least in the US, that makes it their data - we have no eTRUST or other Privacy law/data ownership laws in place to say otherwise.

This doesn't seem like it would be a very popular point of view with the people giving data to Facebook (or whom want to share it with Google or other companies).

Sadly, most of those people don't realize this is what is happening, or what the implications of such control and ownership are.

Doesn't Facebook have an import gmail contacts feature?

Not anymore. It was removed after Facebook wouldn't share data back to Google.

Yea, if you look up "google facebook contacts" on say TechCrunch you will see several articles on the entire story.

Not anymore, they took that off a while ago. Funny thing is for a while the gmail logo still appeared even though when you clicked it to import via gmail it didn't have the option.

Color me perplexed by Facebook's move here. Not only is the blowback from this effort bad PR, but I fail to see what FB stood to gain from this in the first place. Generating a bunch of bad publicity and calling attention to Google's alleged invasions of privacy is just going to bring scrutiny down upon FB eventually -- regardless of whether or not this plot ever came to light.

I mean, did they think it would be a tremendous leap of the imagination for the court of public opinion and/or regulators to ask themselves "Hey, so Google is sketchy on user data...hmm...I wonder what other company might have a boatload of such data?"

For there to be negative-PR blowback on this, the user-base will have to pull their heads out of their asses and stop playing FarmVille for five minutes. Even then, chances are they'll shrug and go back to harvesting self-esteem from their facebook "friends".

I think Farmville reveals a lot about the human condition. I'm totally serious. What it basically tells us is that, if left to their own devices, most people will just waste whatever time they've got. If Facebook or Farmville weren't around, it would be something else. Remember annoying email mass-forwards from your relatives and their friends? That's the kind of stuff that's no longer plaguing us because Farmville is keeping those folks occupied. And for that, in a strange and perverse way, I'm thankful for its existence.

For me, those annoying mass-forwards have just moved to Facebook. "Repost this on your wall if you hate cancer!" Ugh.

They have also moved to text messages. It is rather amusing seeing the necessary mechanics of that type of meme distilled down to so few characters. No room to waste buttering up your emotions. No, they get right down to things like "Fwd to 10 people or BAD LUCK is on you tonight!"

Luckily, a tech company like Facebook lives and dies by its reputation with not just its users but also, among other groups, the developer community.

Look at how much posturing companies put into looking like 'cool' places to work, in order to attract top technical talent. At this point in time I think any prospective Facebook hire will be thinking long and hard about whether the technical challenges and money are worth selling his soul to what appears to be the douchiest internet company around.

my guess is that they hoped to pull themselves up as they pulled google down. they probably feel like they are doing nothing wrong, and that it's unfair that they are criticised more than google. so they want to "level the playing field".

i don't think they thought it through in absolute terms, just as "getting even".

but if you want a pro-fb response, i'd suggest going to quora and asking there (or just searching - there's probably already a discussion). they have a couple of ex-fb people who will provide some "balance" (in particular, look for yishan wong).

Wow, just wow!

I wonder how employees feel about it - is it just business as usual? For that matter, I wonder how would-be investors feel about it.

Google defeated competition from Microsoft and Yahoo with innovation and hard work, not with slimy tactics. They dazzled the world by being open, provocative, fast and effective, forward-thinking, pushing web apps to their limits, giving customers what they wanted.

Is this it? Is Facebook the next Google? How depressing.

I'm pretty sure Facebook employees have been provided some rationalization about it - for example, "Google is pushing a creepy feature and stealing our content, we are just trying to make it public". Believe me, when you have $$$ riding on a side, believing their version of truth is extremely easy to do so, thats human psychology.

If Facebook protected users from everyone, it would be totally acceptable.

But, every ad company and security organization has access to Facebook's data. They are bitching about Google?

"Its ok if you're going to screw with my users, just dont compete me"

Facebook is the next, I don't know, Oracle probably. Google is the next Google.

It's funny you say that, because if there are two tech companies I despise, it is Oracle and Facebook.

How does Groupon or Twitter fit into this schema?

this should be the up-voted article http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2539932 not that - non informative - opinion piece from techcrunch.

I think this will smack of the Streisand Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect) over time. Facebook trying to call attention to privacy concerns over Google will, inevitably, as this piece exemplifies, call attention to their own privacy concerns. And the stigma of this hypocritical stance will also call attention to the overall maturity and sensibility of Facebook, as well.

Then again, the kind of people who are most likely to be affected by this entire affair are also the kind of people who already know this information about both companies. So maybe this will have little overall effect?

I don't think what Facebook did was unethical. It's certainly legal. They catch a lot of flack over privacy issues and they want to remind the media about their competitors' privacy issues and influence them to cover those more, so that they don't look as bad in comparison. That sort of work is done by PR firms, so they hired one to do it. In fact, they may not have even asked the PR firm to do it; the PR firm may have acted independently as part of their service.

As for the PR firm's offering to help write an article... Well, I would call it bad/unethical journalism if such an article were published as reporting. If it were published on some opinion page or like a tech blog, that would be fine.

I agree. Supposedly part of what they were doing was "urging [news organizations] to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy." With a company as big and powerful as Google, there should always be people looking at this. If it happens to a reporter persuaded by a PR firm paid by a competitor, I don't we why that is necessarily a problem.

Not sure what the big deal is here. Big companies run negative PR campaigns against other companies ALL the time -- running negative PR campaigns is a very common strategy in the large market. But I supposed they usually run try to run them in secret, so it is a bit unfortunate that they got caught.

If anything an article like this makes me lose face for techcrunch, who acts like this kind of PR tactic has never happened before.

If you don't believe me read Toxic Sludge, which is a book about the PR industry.

It also makes you wonder when you are reading this story somewhere if Google has their PR agency running it as a negative PR campaign against Facebook.

I guarantee you that Google is running it as a negative PR campaign against Facebook. There's no way someone would sabotage their relationship with Facebook when they're paying the bills.

Yup, exactly. The entire world of PR is cutthroat. If facebook doesn't play, they will get beat.

Don't know what will come out of this but good that Chris Soghoian published the email exchange.

I'm so surprised! I always considered Facebook really honest, upright and trustworthy - a reflection of their founder.

When I hear "Facebook," I immediately think of Zuckerberg. I'm guessing a lot of the reporters out there are making the same correlation. I wonder, though, is this something he knew about (or, rather, did he know about a PR campaign but not of this nature)? It seems a bit out of character for a guy who has been portrayed as being a very calm and calculated person. I wonder if this was just a bit of activity in the PR room that didn't get to the top before it was released...

PR types are always dancing on the shadiness line. Sometimes I get suspicious about the comments on HN when negative stories about certain companies come out.

The only chink in Google's armor is privacy so facebook had no other option. But as the saying goes - The sun cannot call the stove hot.

That's an interesting variation of the saying. If you don't mind my asking, is that translated from a different language, and if so, what language?

I made it up :)

Kettle calling the pot black did not have enough impact for this context for me.

fwiw, brazilian portuguese (at least around my family!) has "the dirty speaking of the unwashed"

Does this mean that they are actually worried about whatever Google do/doing on social? Could be a big morale boost to the Google team

How is the PR firm linked to Facebook?

Facebook employed them. Both sides have "confessed". See the Daily Beast article - http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-12/fa... [and they give credit to USA Today - http://www.usatoday.com/money/media/2011-05-06-google_n.htm]

FB complaining about privacy abuses just broke my irony meter.

Thanks. I scanned the article and couldn't find it.

EDIT: I know you are all downvoting me because I open with "I was an intern", expecting some fuzzy comment in Facebook's defense. No, someone asked what Facebook thinks about this, and I offered my views: I am as confused as the rest of you. I hope the PR firm gets fired, and whoever instructed the PR firm to try this. Give me a break, guys. Stop with the Facebook hate.

I was an intern at Facebook last summer, so I had a great time there. Color me naive, but I don't feel the executives' personalities were "sneaky," probably because I interacted with them in person. I didn't see anything that suggested they would endorse this type of tactic.

With that said, I'd like to believe that it was all a misunderstanding, that perhaps this John guy isn't really affiliated with Facebook (his email is @bm.com), or that this was the mistake of an individual. I sincerely hope that it wasn't an organizational effort to smear Google, because I don't see why they'd need to.

When I was at Facebook, they were supremely confident about being able to snip Google's entry, that they would demoralize Google and make them cry. After all, I was in a sea of brilliant engineers, many of whom understand Google intimately through years of service, and we just needed sheer engineering and better products to win.

Perhaps Facebook just thought it was unfair that it was getting all of the negative light on privacy and wanted to share the blame with someone. But I really don't know, and I'm waiting for an official answer.

I really hope it's good, because I am surprised by this maneuver, to say the least. Maybe the answer is "Google does this too!" But then I would just be doubly disappointed.

You think Facebook would ever tell an intern about secret negative PR campaigns?

The company was very open internally. Everything a full timer knew, an intern could easily find out.

You think the'd tell the full-timers about secret smear campaigns against competitors?

Like I said, everything was open. You can't keep a secret at Facebook. Facebook isn't run like Apple--very different.

So now that Facebook admitted it, you're still sticking to your story? wtf

I don't have any story, except a reaction of disbelief... Plus, I can't edit the original post anyway in light of new revelations.

The point is, as an ex-intern, I am surprised.

How this will affect Facebook? If you pretend that Facebook is a car, this will probably be a scratch. Like how people wont give up a car for a scratch, they probably wont give up Facebook.

The general idea that I got about the management of Facebook is that they are a very confident bunch of guys who know what they are doing- since they have spurned many offers to buy them out. This story however kind of conflicts with the idea I had.

They were fools to let this out in public. Not because of Facebook users but because of developers.

Trying to win not through technical superiority but through FUD spread by cutouts is emblematic of the worst moves of Microsoft. Yes, short-sighted leadership at the top is responsible for many of their current woes.

But also, when tech companies make moves that lack integrity, the best workers head for the exits. They have the least to lose because they can work anywhere. The threshold is lower to act on the courage of their convictions. And high integrity and great work go together.

Top college hires (perhaps the most idealistic and with the least to lose) hear about this stuff and just don't apply.

Facebook should raise more money so it can higher better (quieter) PR.

I have no idea how the Facebook PR team thought that they’d avoid being caught doing this.

Perhaps Facebook's managers think themselves exempt from the changing privacy norms they keep telling us to accept?

So, since Facebook has lost much face are they now just book?

The "Any disclosure or dissemination in whatever form, by another other than the intended recipient is strictly prohibited" is laughable.

take a guess. how many facebook "likes" this article is going to get?

Where is the link to Facebook in those emails? What am I missing?

You need to read the Daily Beast article, here: http://bit.ly/koiEPd

I guess the PR agency was way naive on beliving that won't spilled over them!

Pot calling the Kettle Black.

They are too young of a company to be pulling this sort of seedy stuff.

Also ‘privacy’?! I hope the irony isn’t lost on anyone. It wasn't very well thought-out, as when a net privacy panic starts spreading like wildfire through the media the consequences in political grandstanding and potential legislative action would hurt them as well.

So they come out of this looking like data-locking propaganda spreading assholes. Good job!

Referenced article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-12/fa...

They are too young of a company to be pulling this sort of seedy stuff.

I do not think this kind of seedy behavior is appropriate for company of any age, young or old. If anything, a company should get more responsible as it gets older.

They are too young of a company to be pulling this sort of seedy stuff.

Is there a time in a company's existence when it's "ok" to do something like this?

I don't think it was meant to be "ok" but more in line with the last ditch effort. Older companies might feel as though they have pulled all the stops and this is their last effort to make an impact.

I am not saying it is okay, just trying to shine some light on what I think yanw meant.

>Last ditch effort.

It could also be a 'We're the establishment, we don't care what others think now' vibe, instead of a last ditch effort that causes some companies to use seedy tactics.

I wonder if this cold war is the reason facebook banned adsense from 3rd party apps http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2291336

I hope facebook has a good excuse for this. A note from Zuck saying "we apologize" won't suffice.

Apology (i.e. admission of guilt) or good excuse are both acceptable, it's the bad excuses that are the problem.

Noone will care in 1 week. Billions of ppl will continue to use Facebook, and 90% of them will not even know about this news. Nothing to see here, just tech boys making a huge commotion over very little

I see no difference, or impact on my life, between this Google/Facebook billionaire's catfight and any Twitter-borne beef between two or more millionaire celebritainers.


Who cares? Facebook is a generic company. Google is a generic company. If they spy on each, smash each other, etc, it changes nothing. Neither for you nor for your startup or anything.

Personifying these companies and then writing gossip stories about them is turning what should be real business into some kind of pseudo-fashion magazine.

Just as little as I care for Snookie kissing JWoww, do I care about Facebook spying on google. The impact of this is minimally negligible in the world of real business, and something like this is just pointless gossip.

Goodwill and brand have value, and public opinion affects laws that get written. The very fact that Facebook was doing this means perception matters. It's not like FB and Google are making money from artificial drama, so I think your analogy is specious.

Honestly, I'm shocked my the downvotes being levied against all of these "who cares" type posts.

How much face is really being lost by Facebook? The audience of Facebook users that will read about the "negative PR campaign" will be infantesimally small (compared to their near 500 million accounts).

Then compare that infantesimally small number of users to the percentage who didn't already know that Facebook was dodgy as hell.

The relative impact of this discovery, while interesting, makes no difference in anything (save as being direct proof of Facebook's "Be Evil" corporate policy).


I'm happy to take it on the chin in terms of downvotes here too, but the way I see it there's nothing here that will impact anything.

Note that at least in France, this made the front page on the website of all major newspaper (Le Monde, Liberation, etc.). It's probably the same in many european country where Facebook is sometimes struggling to keep a clean image.

Look at me and my Ethnocentricity! How true that there are other cultures where these services are still trying to get traction and expose's like this one can have an actual impact.

Thanks for pointing that out :)

Doesn't seem very secret to me. If it was secret people wouldn't know about it. A secret smear is a whisper, not a newspaper article. Furthermore its not a smear if its true. So, 2 lies in the headline. I clicked on the link to verify that it had no information, as things with 2 obvious lies in the headline are wont to do. I have verified that there is no information at the link.

Are we just assuming that "an unnamed client" is Facebook, because DUH, who else? Or am I missing a piece of this story?

According to the Daily Beast article linked from the Techcrunch article, Facebook admitted it: "Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: 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."

That seems like kind of a weird statement from a "Facebook spokesman" so I assume we are going to get some additional statements about this.

"[L]ater, learning that Facebook had come clean, the Burson spokesman wrote back and confirmed it."

Top of page 2 of the original article.

So Facebook admits that their intentions were good ("just needed to get this message out"), and Burson takes the fall for its unethical approach (while gaining reputation for other companies needing similar services). Meanwhile, mission accomplished in raising visibility on what Facebook PR intended--that when pieces about online privacy come up, there's an increased chance that Google will be mentioned in the same breath as Facebook.

Seems like politics 101.

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