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Facebook vs. Google: Battle of the Online Giants

By Megan Marrs May 13, 2011 Posted In: Google Comments: 0

Google vs. Facebook

Godzilla vs. Mothra, Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator, and now this summer, coming to a theater near you: Facebook vs. Google.

It’s no secret that social is the new currency across the internet, but Facebook’s recent attack on Google shows just how precious and coveted such social data is.

Facebook Hires PR Firm to Bad-Mouth Google

Over the past few days, there has been a lot of speculation concerning what mysterious entity hired the private PR firm Burson-Marsteller to encourage mudslinging against Google by pitching anti-Google stories to newspapers. Dan Lyons at the Daily Beast reports that they discovered it was none other than Facebook – and they found out just by asking.

A Facebook spokesman admitted that the company hired Burson for 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.

It’s almost enough to make you laugh and write the whole thing off as a joke. Facebook, complaining about privacy concerns? Facebook? The same Facebook that is notorious for trying to trick users into signing away more and more of their private information? Facebook’s flagrant backhanded ways are truly astounding! As Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim notes,

Agreed, Facebook shouldn’t have started this campaign in the first place, but to go on record admitting to it? It’s not like Facebook came forward with a mea culpa. It didn’t apologize for such a bone-headed move. It practically bragged about it and then tried to justify its actions!

Even in trying to discover exactly what Facebook is moaning and groaning about, there seems to be quite a bit of confusion about how and where Google is using Facebook data. There’s the Google Social Search, the old, now extinct Google Social Circle (now named Social Connections), then there’s Google Social Circles which doesn’t officially exist yet. Yikes, it’s enough to give you Googly Eyes.

Playing By its Own Rules

In one pitch Burson sent out in hopes of getting writers to do some Google bashing, Burson claims that “Google will simply ‘scrape’ their information from dozens of sources and compile the data into one massive dossier aligned directly with user’s personally identifiable information.” Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land notes that Facebook encourages said “scraping” through its recommendations to the Privacy settings. He calls attention to the fact that:

Facebook has encouraged its users to share information with 'everyone' and actively published that information out onto the open internet. But because Google doesn’t want to play by Facebook’s rules to harvest this publicly published information, Facebook seems to want to cry foul.

Personal Data: The New Gold Standard

Facebook knows all too well that personal data is the new marketing gold standard, and with information on over 500 million users, Facebook is rolling in data wealth. Although Facebook is the one opening up these mines, the company is clearly ready to use treacherous means to keep that gold in their own pockets.

In watching the drama unfold, USA Today asked 26 Gmail users about Social Circle, and found that:

Only two were vaguely aware of the service, while 14 said they would disable the service, if they could, citing privacy concerns.

Clearly this Facebook vs. Google mecha-battle is happening in a land that much of the population is unaware of. As Greg Sterling of Opus Research explained to USA Today, while the vast amount of Facebook users "freely provide information about themselves, it's far less clear that they understand how that information is being used by Facebook or third parties to profile them."

The battle has only just begun, and with Facebook clearly willing to use every dirty trick in the book, Google will have to come up with some clever schemes of its own to hold ground in the social realm.

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