I’m quite pleased to learn that Facebook has come to a privacy epiphany. I’ve been blogging a lot lately about the privacy problems with Facebook’s new features — Beacon and Social Ads:
Facebook recently announced that it is changing the way it obtains people’s consent before it uses or discloses their personal information. In particular, its change in policy involves Beacon. According to the AP:
More than 40 different Web sites, including Fandango.com, Overstock.com and Blockbuster.com, had embedded Beacon in their pages to track transactions made by Facebook users.
Unless instructed otherwise, the participating sites alerted Facebook, which then notified a user’s friends within the social network about items that had been bought or products that had been reviewed.
Facebook thought the marketing feeds would help its users keep their friends better informed about their interests while also serving as “trusted referrals” that would help drive more sales to the sites using the Beacon system.
But thousands of Facebook users viewed the Beacon referrals as a betrayal of trust. Critics blasted the advertising tool as an unwelcome nuisance with flimsy privacy protections that had already exasperated and embarrassed some users.
Some users have already complained about inadvertently finding out about gifts bought for them for Christmas and Hanukkah after Beacon shared information from Overstock.com. Other users say they were unnerved when they discovered their friends had found out what movies they were watching through purchases made on Fandango.
Peter Lattman of WSJ blog was one of the ones caught off guard by Beacon, when he discovered to his dismay that Facebook announced to his friends that he bought tickets to Bee Movie on Fandango.
According to the New York Times:
Under Beacon, when Facebook members purchase movie tickets on Fandango.com, for example, Facebook sends a notice about what movie they are seeing in the News Feed on all of their friends’ pages. If a user saves a recipe on Epicurious.com or rates travel venues on NYTimes.com, friends are also notified. There is an opt-out box that appears for a few seconds, but users complain that it is hard to find.