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TheStreet Open House

10 Disastrous PR Moves by Companies

Facebook vs. Google
Facebook seems to always be under attack by one disgruntled party or another, usually about its ever-changing, sneaky approach to a privacy policy. Bottom line: A company that give you a service for free in exchange for mining data is never going to be too keen on shielding your data from prying eyes.

It does seem Facebook suffers a disproportionate share of scorn regarding this topic than the bigger potential threat to personal privacy that is Google (GOOG).

Still, Facebook crossed a line when PR firm Burson-Marsteller was tasked with trying to spread privacy-related vitriol about Google and plant news stories and blogs that prodded writers to make the case for them, even offering to help write these pieces. The targets ranged from influential blogs to USA Today.

In one of the emails leaked by an unwilling blogger, Google is described as having "a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America's Internet users."

PR firms always try to influence stories -- it's what they are paid for. What made these efforts such a failure is that the firm refused to reveal it was working for Facebook. Here's the other miscalculation: The public often has a finely tuned hypocrisy detector. A suitable defense for Facebook when its lackadaisical approach to user privacy is denounced really needed to be more than "They started it!"

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