Why is Burson-Marsteller spreading fake Google stories?

Top-five public relations firm Burston-Marsteller has been trying to get news outlets to run stories about the Gmail feature Social Circle, saying it violates U.S. Federal Trade Commission rules and users’ privacy, according to USA Today.

However, when USA Today reporters Jon Swatz and Byron Acohido researched the story, they found the claims, pitched by former CNBC tech correspondent Jim Goldman, now a PR rep at BM, to be untrue. Goldman and another BM executive, John Mercurio, a former political columnist, are apparently trying to start an anti-Google “whisper campaign,” which is all being funded by an unnamed client.

Other than USA Today, BM’s Mercurio offered to ghost write an op-ed column for FTC researcher and blogger Christopher Soghoian, and offered to help get it published in outlets such as The Washington Post, Politico, The Huffington Post, The Hill and Roll Call, USA Today reported. Soghoian, who has been an outspoken critic of privacy issues at Google, among other tech companies, instead posted the full text of Mercurio’s e-mail pitch online. He also tweeted his rejection: “I am quite capable of authoring my own anti-google stuff thank you,” according to paidContent.

Sleazy moves by PR firms trying to spread scandal isn’t anything new. Yet this incident is different, as it comes from a high-end global communications firm and a former CNBC reporter, Business Insider explains:

“Especially because it suggests that some of the groundswell of anti-Google sentiment in Washington may have been driven by secret paid attack-campaigns like this one.”

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