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PostSubject: Facebook Hired PR Firm To Target Google   Thu May 12, 2011 11:46 am

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Facebook Inc. recently hired a public relations firm to push stories critical of Google Inc.'s privacy policies, amid an escalation of the rivalry between the two Internet companies.

Facebook hired WPP Group PLC's Burson-Marsteller to pitch journalists and security experts on stories that questioned Google's practice of collecting information from some users' Facebook and other social-networking accounts. Facebook didn't disclose it was behind the campaign.

After bloggers and news reports disclosed the connection between Burson-Marsteller and Facebook, Facebook on Thursday sought to downplay the public relations impact of its behind-the-scenes strategy.

A Facebook spokesman said the company didn't authorize or intend to run a "smear" campaign. "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 spokesman said. "The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way."

A Google spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, a Burson-Marsteller spokesman said Facebook "requested that its name be withheld on the grounds that it was merely asking to bring publicly available information to light and such information could then be independently and easily replicated by any media."

Still, he added that doing so was "not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined."

Two of the public relations executives involved in the work, Jim Goldman and John Mercurio, didn't respond to emails seeking comment.
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