Facebook fesses up over Google smear stunt

Facebook and PR firm Burson-Marsteller have made a stunning about face after being caught out attempting to plant negative stories about tech rival Google.

Facebook last night admitted it had hired the PR firm to help shed light on what it said was publicly available information about privacy issues related to Google's new product, Social Circles.

A Facebook spokesman told The Daily Beast the company had secretly hired Burson because it believed that some of Google's social networking-related actions raise concerns about privacy.

Google was using Facebook data for its social networking service. Social Circle pulls information from Facebook to suggest "secondary connections" to its users, which Facebook claims is a direct violation of its own terms of service: "We are concerned that Google may be improperly using data they have scraped about Facebook users," said the spokesman.

Burson-Marsteller released the following statement.

"Now that Facebook has come forward, we can confirm that we undertook an assignment for that client.

"The client 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," the statement said.

"When talking to the media, we need to adhere to strict standards of transparency about clients, and this incident underscores the absolute importance of that principle."