In response to Google+, the Google social network that’s currently in a limited beta, Facebook is taking some dramatic steps. Facebook has blocked tools that would allow for easy migration to Google+, which follows an earlier hiring of a PR firm in May this year to discredit Google+.
Blocking the Migration Tools
Facebook is, in many ways, the only threat to Google’s empire on the web. As such, it’s unsurprising that Google’s new attempt at social would be seen as a big deal to Facebook – especially when it the new site bears such a striking resemblance to an improved version of Facebook. One of the great risks is that users will simply move all their contacts over to Google+ when it becomes publicly available.
To make sure this process isn’t too easy, Facebook has blocked a Chrome extension called “Facebook Friend Exporter.” Friend Exporter can be used to quickly import your friend information, include contact information and birthdays, to Gmail – and thus, eventually, to Google+. As Mohammad Monsour reported to CNET, “[Facebook] implemented a throttling mechanism that if you visit your ~5 friends in a short period of time, it will remove the email field.” This prevents the extension from functioning. Others who have attempted to create similar export tools, including Rafael Laguna, have run into similar problems.
Previous PR Slam
Earlier this year, employees of the company contacted several major outlets requesting that they investigate and publish stories about how Google is violating the privacy of its users. Despite the ensuing scandal, Burson-Marsteller refused to fire the employees who had made the smear efforts, and Facebook continued to use the company for its PR efforts. Chris Soghoian, a privacy researcher was approached by Burson-Marsteller requesting they publish stories about concerns with Google+ Circles privacy. Burson-Marsteller even offered to write the story for him and simply have him attach his name to give the story credibility.
THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Soghoian as a journalist, rather than a privacy researcher. It also incorrectly identified that the ‘PR slam’ happened twice. It happened once, in May 2011.