By now, many if not most people have heard about Facebook’s so-called “secret” hire of an outside public relations firm to plant less-than-flattering stories about Google as regards security. That public relations firm, it is now known, is Burson-Marsteller – one of the biggest, and… er… one of the best (?).
In the interest of full disclosure, your humble correspondent was Information Technology Director at one of Burson-Marsteller’s (B-M) largest regional offices: Washington, DC. In fact, I was actually a Young & Rubicam employee, positioned at the DC office of B-M: Young & Rubicam owns Burson-Marsteller.
That said, it’s a rather interesting story about a lack of judgment, and a rather unsound understanding of The Business-Technology Weave that we all inhabit. The Daily Beast has reported that Facebook’s initiative to put Google in a bad light backfired when Burson-Marsteller tried to enlist a blogger in furthering negative privacy implications surrounding Google’s Social Circle social networking service.
That blogger, Chris Soghoian, a former Federal Trade Commission researcher, published his e-mails with B-M, and this exposure was ultimately reported by USA Today. The flavor of events became such that it is now clear that Facebook was engaging in an anti-Google campaign.
Here’s the kernel of what has Facebook, and perhaps Google, in a bit of hot water: Google’s Social Circle service is intended to help Gmail users maintain connection with people they chat with or e-mail – “direct connections.” But beyond, this service sends Gmail users the names of what they call secondary connections; these are any people that the direct connections follow publicly through the internet. Thus, there’s an uncomfortable mixing of private and public connections… further, Google is constantly refining the “Google experience” – mixing all manner of people, associated information, and online activity into an ongoing evolution of the web experience. It usually happens seamlessly, and many people may not be aware of what their presence within Google’s circle actually represents.
Google also prompts Gmail users to connect other outside accounts to the Social Circle: Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Flickr, as well as others. More uncomfortable mixing, at least according to my taste. The stew can have too many ingredients; there’s always a point of diminishing return…
I like managing things very tightly, and I communicate in different styles according to different individuals and audiences – I’m sure most readers here do too. That’s the crux of the matter – what is it that you’re doing, and to whom might it inadvertently be exposed? Are you completely knowledgeable about access to your vital information – content – and do you harbor a similar knowledge as to where any of your “sends” go? (Whether e-mail, Twitter, post, etc.).
I’ve often asked of Business: What is being done in the name of your domain? But now I say to the individual social networking user: What are YOU doing in the name of your domain? That is, under the umbrella of your own personal good name?
For example, I know that when I publish in the domain of David Scott, my content is appropriate, and goes to appropriate entities and eyes.
Do you know that in your own regards?
NP: Light-Foot, Lou Donaldson, www.Jazz24.org.