Facebook Beacon: Two Weeks Later
It’s been two weeks since my post about how to block Facebook Beacon and a lot has happened.
- Newspaper and networks are beginning to cover the response to Beacon.
- Om Malik called for a protest of all participating companies.
- MoveOn.org has created a petition demanding a blanket opt-out system.
- The post has been viewed over 80,000 times.
Compare it to this. When you read articles on most news websites, such as the New York Times, alongside the article there is an icon to share the story you are reading on Digg, Newsvine, Del.icio.us, Facebook, etc. The Beacon system should be no different than how that functions. Right now, Beacon simply is clicking that share button for you.
Facebook’s Response vs. User ResponseFacebook has brushed off the response over Beacon as “fairly muted”. And they are probably right….so far. Facebook users will remember the outrage in 2006 when Facebook first introduced the mini-feed. Groups were made, petitions were filed, fists were raised. Users were upset because their activity inside the Facebook site was now made visible to all of their friends. And within days Facebook had made changes to privacy settings and Facebook had publicly apologized. But the response over Beacon will be slow and gradual. This is because, unlike the mini-feed, which every user was presented with immediately upon logging in, users will only slowly begin to interact with Beacon over the course of the coming weeks and months. But if I were Facebook I wouldn’t so casually brush aside the growing response. Because if Facebook users freaked out when the mini-feed shared their internal Facebook activity, how are they going to react when they find out their activity from outside of Facebook is being stored and shared?
Some SolutionsWell with everything that I do on this site I try to offer solutions to problems, so this scenario shouldn’t be any different. First off, for the user, they can block Beacon until Facebook gets it together. Now for Facebook, they have a number of solutions. I don’t think they should scrap Beacon. As I said before, I think it’s a great idea and a boon to advertising. Unfortunately, this is another example of Facebook implementing a new feature without an initial consideration for their users feelings of privacy. Most importantly, sign-ups to the system need to be reversed. No data should be transferred, requested, or stored until a user has verified that they are cool with it. That should be the clean slate that they start with. They could offer a blanket opt-out system, if and only if, they were able to prove that when you said ‘don’t show this data’ it also meant ‘don’t store this data’. So that when a participating site sent a request to Facebook to see if the surfer was a Facebook user, Facebook makes no log of that transaction what-so-ever. If they aren’t willing to do that, then there should be an additional step made in how the transaction between a user, a partner site, and Facebook occurs. An example of the current process as is:
- User goes rents a movie from Blockbuster online
- Blockbuster Online asks Facebook, is this person a Facebook User?
- Facebook says yes (log could be made of transaction)
- Blockbuster sends the movie user rented to Facebook.
- Facebook stores data