Facebook’s Beacon: News Feeds All Over Again?

facebook3.jpgI recently blogged about Facebook’s Beacon, where it adds information to user profiles of their purchases at participating external websites such as Fandango. Beacon is starting to spark a privacy outcry among Facebook users. From the AP:

Some users of the online hangout Facebook are complaining that its two-week-old marketing program is publicizing their purchases for friends to see.

Those users say they never noticed a small box that appears on a corner of their Web browsers following transactions at Fandango, Overstock and other online retailers. The box alerts users that information is about to be shared with Facebook unless they click on “No Thanks.” It disappears after about 20 seconds, after which consent is assumed.

Users are given a second notice the next time they log on to Facebook, but they can easily miss it if they quickly click away to visit a friend’s page or check e-mail.

Back in 2006, Facebook rolled out a new feature called News Feeds that sparked a privacy outcry among its users and prompted Facebook to issue a letter of apology. Perhaps it is deja vu all over again with Beacon. According to the AP story:

Users are able to decline sharing on a site-by-site basis, but can’t withdraw from the program entirely. . . .

Liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org formed a protest group Tuesday and had more than 6,000 members by Wednesday. The group is calling on Facebook to stop revealing online purchases and letting companies use names for endorsements without “explicit permission.”

“We want Facebook to realize that their users are rightly concerned that private information is being made public,” MoveOn spokesman Adam Green said, adding that Facebook could quell concerns by seeking “opt in” consent rather than leaving it to users to “opt out” by taking steps to decline sharing.

Maybe Facebook should realize something that strikes many as common sense — if people want something to appear in their profiles, they’ll put it there themselves.

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