Industry black eye? High-profile PR pros busted spreading fake Google story

A blogger and USA Today revealed a whisper campaign by two journalists turned Burson-Marsteller employees. Question is: For whom were they working?

BM is going after Gmail’s Social Circle, a feature that most Gmail users probably don’t know exists, but which BM says “tramples the privacy of millions of Americans and violates federal fair trade rules,” according to a recent USA Today article.

The PR firm is spreading the word about Social Circle reportedly on behalf of a client. The USA Today article said that current BM reps—former CNBC news anchor Jim Goldman and former political columnist John Mercurio—started a “whisper campaign” suggesting the Social Circle issue is a consumer interest story.

The timing is impeccable, as Google prepares to appear at a U.S. Senate hearing over the location-tracking in its Android smartphones.

In addition to contacting traditional media outlets, the BM reps reached out to Christopher Soghoian, a former FTC researcher and blogger. In a series of emails, Mercurio offered to ghost-write a post on Social Circle and help Soghoian place the column in The Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call, or the Huffington Post.

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