Facebook bows to the Beacon haters

by Mathew on November 29, 2007 · 15 comments

Nick O’Neill at All Facebook has the news that Facebook has backtracked on its Beacon feature (as I expected they might), and will now present the data for a Facebook user to approve before it is added to their news feed. In other words, you could now prevent the information about the Christmas present (or Christmakkah present) you bought from being broadcast to the person you bought it for.

Will the statement from Facebook placate all of the Beacon critics? That’s pretty unlikely — I think some people have the knives out for anything that they see as an infringement on their privacy, even if they have to agree before their privacy even gets infringed. I know that my friend Leigh, for example, feels very strongly about the Facebook tracking idea, but I honestly don’t see what the big deal is (Update: I’m glad to see that Fred Wilson agrees with me).

Hopefully now that Facebook has made it even more obvious for users what is being tracked, and they have to explicitly approve it before it’s added to their news feed, some of the complaints will die down. Just to be clear, users have always had to approve the disclosure, but many have complained that it was too confusing, or they weren’t paying attention, or the opt-out notice disappeared too quickly, or whatever.

So now, as I understand it, Facebook will present you with a notice about the shopping or other behaviour it has tracked through a partner site like Amazon, and if you click OK then it will be added to your news feed. And then Facebook will let me know that you bought “Chicken Soup For the Heartless Bastard” or whatever, and I will promptly ignore that just like I ignore most of the things in my feed.

  • http://www.howardlindzon.com howardlindzon

    so you are saying you are not breathessly awiting my updates ?

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Always, Howard. Always.

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  • Brian K

    The deal is, they are tracking my information without my permission to do so. Of course, all sites do this–and you tacitly agree to it by using a web site–but no other site (to my limited knowledge) tracks across the web.
    Nevermind the information is useless–it's the premise. Why not just track my bank accounts, so i can purchase their stupid gifts faster, or report to everyone when I'm broke. Or track when I'm looking at porn, or my heart rate, or whatever.
    It's true, no one would really care about my doing any of those things, nevertheless, it's an irritating transformation of human society to this obsession on the individual and their inane activities, as well as a corporate invasion of privacy.

  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com Leigh

    I guess too many of my friends are social justice lawyers who work with people all the time who get screwed by this type of transient information. Seriously the stories I have heard would blog (ha, Freudian slip) your mind. And it goes on all the time.

    But sure, for most of us tech writers, rich guys in NYC, doctors, digital executives, etc. – chances are we'll probably be just fine. Can't imagine my shopping habits will have anyone thinking very much other than I have great taste. ;-)

    p.s if you keep disagreeing with me I'll make you buy lunch

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Ouch — that lunch comment was harsh. Point taken :-)

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks for the comment, Brian — but lots of other companies track
    what you're doing, including Microsoft (if you use Internet Explorer).
    They just don't make it obvious that they do, and they don't make it
    obvious how to opt out either — in other words, they do exactly the
    same thing people are criticizing Facebook for doing.

  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com leigh

    What's your point M…that Microsoft ISNT evil??? Lol. You're killing me today….

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Well, not any *more* evil :-)

  • Brian K

    The deal is, they are tracking my information without my permission to do so. Of course, all sites do this–and you tacitly agree to it by using a web site–but no other site (to my limited knowledge) tracks across the web.
    Nevermind the information is useless–it's the premise. Why not just track my bank accounts, so i can purchase their stupid gifts faster, or report to everyone when I'm broke. Or track when I'm looking at porn, or my heart rate, or whatever.
    It's true, no one would really care about my doing any of those things, nevertheless, it's an irritating transformation of human society to this obsession on the individual and their inane activities, as well as a corporate invasion of privacy.

  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com Leigh

    I guess too many of my friends are social justice lawyers who work with people all the time who get screwed by this type of transient information. Seriously the stories I have heard would blog (ha, Freudian slip) your mind. And it goes on all the time.

    But sure, for most of us tech writers, rich guys in NYC, doctors, digital executives, etc. – chances are we'll probably be just fine. Can't imagine my shopping habits will have anyone thinking very much other than I have great taste. ;-)

    p.s if you keep disagreeing with me I'll make you buy lunch

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Ouch — that lunch comment was harsh. Point taken :-)

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks for the comment, Brian — but lots of other companies track
    what you're doing, including Microsoft (if you use Internet Explorer).
    They just don't make it obvious that they do, and they don't make it
    obvious how to opt out either — in other words, they do exactly the
    same thing people are criticizing Facebook for doing.

  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com leigh

    What's your point M…that Microsoft ISNT evil??? Lol. You're killing me today….

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Well, not any *more* evil :-)

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