Switching off the Beacon
December 6, 2007 1 Comment
Facebook finally owned up to the fact that they really did a poor job implementing Beacon, a “service” that provides way too much information about your buying habits (from the Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required):
After weeks of criticism over a new advertising program that was perceived as a privacy threat, Facebook Inc. has tweaked its privacy settings and offered a public apology from its chief executive — but advertisers remain wary.
The program, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled last month, allows Facebook to track its users’ activities, such as purchases, on third-party Web sites that partner with the social-networking site and broadcast them to the users’ friends. For instance, Facebook users could receive messages telling them that a friend had bought a sweater on Overstock.com or a movie ticket on Fandango.com. Called Beacon, the program was intended to give advertisers a way “into the conversations between people,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
But the program raised the ire of privacy advocates and users, who said Facebook didn’t clearly explain how users could prevent information from being shared and didn’t give them a way to opt out entirely. The advocacy organization MoveOn.org Civic Action, for one, formed a group complaining about the way Beacon had been implemented. As of yesterday afternoon, the group had close to 70,000 members.
In a Facebook blog, Mr. Zuckerberg yesterday wrote, “We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.” He added that Facebook users can now adjust their privacy settings to opt out of the Beacon program entirely…more
At least Mr. Zuckerberg did the right thing, made a plain-spoken apology, and reacted to the concerns by making changes.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would want to broadcast this much information about themselves – but then again, I don’t “get” Twitter for the same reason…