May 13, 2011
CAN'T SAY WHERE, USA, May 13, 2011 -- Audiences of David Fincher's hit film "The Social Network" left theaters worldwide remarking, "Whoa. I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg is really such a dick?" While the line between art and reality is often unknowable, events this week demonstrate that dickish values and tactics are alive and well at the world's biggest social network and marginally profitable Zynga credits merchant.
First, a USA Today story revealed that PR agency Burson-Marsteller, on behalf of an unnamed client, had been engaged to interest bloggers and media outlets in a story tarring Google's Social Circle feature on Gmail, which reporters were told places millions of users at high risk of privacy breaches. Later, the Daily Beast identified the mystery client as Facebook, where executives apparently fear Gmail's encroachment in the social-connectivity business Facebook dominates throughout the Milky Way galaxy.
Burson flacks approached both newspapers and at least one prominent privacy-hawk blogger, Christopher Soghoian, with a case against Google and some helpful suggestions for chastening, embarrassing, damaging and/or smearing the search giant on newsstands, online and on the regulatory front lines:
Google, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America's Internet users. 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 . . .To his everlasting credit, Soghoian asked who was sponsoring the anti-Google campaign and, when he was refused the information, went public with the email exchange.
I'm happy to help place the op-ed and assist in the drafting, if needed. For media targets, I was thinking about the Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call or the Huffington Post.
Meanwhile, the backlash against Facebook has begun. The online public seems divided by the episode, some believing Zuckerberg's or not-Zuckerberg's brainchild to be "the douchiest company ever" and others concluding it is "the douchiest and most cowardly company ever."
"They're about to go public for, like, $50 billion, and they're behaving like Leeza telling Jayson that Courtney is a slut? Seriously? Are they, like, in 7th grade?" said one observer, who asked not to be identified so that the remark would not be traced back to her. "Also," she added, "what's with the teeth-whitener ads? Are they saying I have gray teeth? Also, I still don't get what a 'poke' is ."
Facebook, which is rumored to be worse than Stalin, the shingles and Chris Brown put together, responded to the revelations by wriggling like a can of nightcrawlers.
"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," it said in a statement to USA Today. "The issues are serious, and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way."
In a statement, Burson-Marsteller heroically acknowledged that it was all Facebook's idea.
In other smears, intelligence officials poring over the trove of computer hard drives and memory sticks recovered from the Abbotabad, Pakistan dwelling of Osama bin Laden may have found evidence of links between Facebook and al Qaeda.
"Not a year has gone by since the founding of the company," said one official who declined to be identified lest his motives be questioned causing the bombshell to blow up in his conniving face, "where Facebook hasn't tried to destroy our way of life or at least Friendster. They hate our freedom."
The official was at a loss to explain poking.