Facebook has reportedly confirmed it paid a top PR firm to spread anti-Google stories via the media and to encourage journalists to examine allegations that Google was violating user privacy.
In an escalating war between the online rivals, described by The Daily Beast, the PR firm Burson-Marsteller even offered to help a blogger write a critical opinion story about Social Circle — a service that allows Gmail users to access information on so-called "secondary connections," or friends of friends.
In a pitch to journalists, Burson described the tool thus: "The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloging and broadcasting every minute of every day-without their permission."
The blogger, Chris Soghoian, meanwhile published all of his email communication with Burson-Marsteller.
Apple and Microsoft had been suspected in the publicity campaign, but when confronted by The Daily Beast, a Facebook spokesman admitted hiring the PR firm.
Facebook suggested it was looking after consumers, saying that it believed that Google was violating consumer privacy and it suspected that its rival "may be improperly using data they have scraped about Facebook users."
Google has yet to comment on the story.