Updated: Facebook Responds, and explains. It has been 48 hours since I asked Facebook to clarify the point about whether a user’s data is still being passed to them from their web partners even after the user chooses to opt out of Beacon. I’ve since given […]


Updated: Facebook Responds, and explains.

It has been 48 hours since I asked Facebook to clarify the point about whether a user’s data is still being passed to them from their web partners even after the user chooses to opt out of Beacon.

I’ve since given it a lot of thought and decided that I was not being judgmental in my previous post. Here, after all, is what Mark Zuckerberg told Portfolio.

* “The ads are going to feel like content to a lot of people.”
* “There is no opting out of advertising.”

Scary, isn’t it? Anyway, Nate Weiner, writing on Idea Shower, is also worried about Beacon — and he’s come to a similar conclusion: Any opt out is that of perception and publishing. (He came to this conclusion while playing games over on Kongregate.)

The problem however is, that even though you can choose whether or not it is made public that you visited these sites, Facebook still has the data regardless of your privacy settings. Now I don’t mean to sound like I’m tin-foil-hat-wearing paranoid, but that does seem to encroach a little past what Facebook’s role in my life should be.

Weiner (via Deep Jive Interests) has suggestions on how to avoid the whole Beacon thing — you need to use this Firefox plugin. My view is this: Let’s not use the 44 sites that have partnered with Facebook till each one puts a public disclosure on their site saying that no data is being passed to it.

It is going to be hard living without some of these big giants, but in most cases there are options. For instance, Fandango, which is owned by Comcast (CMCSA), is not going to get any business from me — 777 Film is a good alternative. Blockbuster (BBI) gets the boot, and eBay (EBAY)? Okay maybe I am being a little paranoid!

And as far as Facebook is concerned, I am still waiting for their clarifications.

Updated: Here is what Facebook says. I am also speaking with one of their senior executives on Monday, so if you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

Facebook designed Beacon so Facebook users could choose to share information about interesting actions they are taking on other websites with their friends on Facebook. As part of Beacon, Facebook built several ways that users can choose to not share any information. Each time an action can be shared, users receive a prompt on a Beacon-participating site where users can choose “No, thanks.”

If they choose not to share a specific action, Facebook immediately deletes and does not store any data that was used to generate the Beacon. In all cases, Facebook does not share any personally identifiable information with participating sites.

Along with the choices a user has on a Beacon site, users also have the ability to change their settings on Facebook. A user can select to remove any participating Beacon site from ever sending any information to Facebook to share with their friends.

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  1. Om,

    Saw you on The Agenda and now I have a question.

    How do you prefer to pronounce your name?

    Om – like “holmes” or like “on” with an M ?

  2. Om, why is this different from Google showing ads on gmail based on the content of the email.

    Is it not implicit that I am using a free service, so someone has to pay the bills. Is the expectation that the service will be free and the advertising will be non-contextual (with horrible conversion rates).

  3. Good Lord – they’re even ignoring YOU?

    If they’re looking for supporters in the Tech world, it’s really not a good idea to dis the TechPress — You, WebWare/Cnet, Mashable and TechCrunch are really the 4 heavies…and none are very happy about Beacon.

    Wake up, Darth Zuckerberg!

  4. Another Facebook user and sometimes skeptic here. Facebook seems to be branding, as of today, their ad “service” as something providing an “enhanced user experience”. As you certainly know, the in-site Facebook blog outed this fact (?) about two days ago. The problem, from my point of view, and gods know I am not a pundit, is that the ads that were circulating for some time did not seem targeted at all, thus not using a semantic web principle Google ads seems to use. Example: I have 4 university degrees (no kidding, varying from M.A’s to a PhD.). I got spam ads from the omnipresent Phoenix College for one day or so. Then they suddenly stopped and now I am served again the old Facebook flyers, which seem to take into account demographics and, say, interests.

    My opinion? Facebook is not getting back to you just yet because the community is feeling conflicted about the whole thing and it certainly is stirring controversy. Also, the blog entry did not mention anything about opting out. It is only after posting a news item on my profile, with a few sharp comments, that the ads as such stopped. Tacit opting out, or mere coincidence? I am interested to know too. What I know is that the mutism certainly has a reason, possibly to do with both 1)the promised opting out possibility and 2) targeting in question, and how far (or not) it will go. Thanks for updates.

  5. Sadly, this comes down to to ToU and in Facebook’s case they can do whatever they want to you. If you check the Facebook ToU ( http://www.facebook.com/terms.php ) pay special attention to the section, “User Content Posted on the Site.” To paraphrase a bit — anything you post on the site they own all the rights to end of story. The problem is this now will come crashing into the “partner” sites ToU. If Facebook is smart they have already informed their “partners” to add something similar wording to their ToU otherwise they might be liable for damages for using someone’s image without consent in CA and NY. ( For legal info check: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/infolaw/2007/11/08/facebook-social-ads/
    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/are-facebooks-social-ads-illegal/ )

  6. To me it comes down to a simple matter of respect

    does any service I deal with respect my relationship and my wishes.
    if so I continue to deal with them
    If they don’t – we part company.

    Facebook is free. But that does not give them inaliable rights to monetize my relationship with them – or my friends.

    Just as consumers don’t feel enamored by having advertsers push messaging at them on their cell phone. From their perspective – they paid for it – its their phone and air time – hands off.

    FB aren’t the only ones that will be facing these questions from their users, they are simply the first with a high profile.

    AOL made a smart choice by giving their user community (which in many ways has significant parallels to many social media) the option

    the rest of the market will need to follow or face the consequences.

    Facebook despite pundit calculations is not, with any certainty worth $15B, only somewhere between $240M+$1 and $15B

    a lot of wiggle room to make even the most hardened business man (let alone newbie-lucky-tech-social-change-agent) weaken their resolve and cave to the masses that are the source of their newfound fortune.

    Maybe others will also come to realize that push is never as palatable as pull.

  7. I think a bit of perspective needs to be gained on this. Facebook is a free service to its users, without advertising it will be an unsustainable business model, all of the company’s valuations are based on the size of the site’s audience – this is because of the potential for advertising.

    The site itself is still bound by the data protection laws of the country that it’s based in, in this case the US. To be honest I’d be a little less worried about the data it transmits on what you look at on the site and more concerned with the data you yourself put into the site as that represents more of a risk, especially from the viewpoint of fraud.

    I’d also be annoyed about them disrupting my newsfeed with advertising as this dilutes my experience of the site. Tracking systems used by legit advertisers are nothing to be afraid of – they just exist to prove facebook is providing the audience it claims to be.

  8. More Facebookdom « orchard office Friday, November 9, 2007

    [...] already decided to scratch a few from my resume. Therein lies the question, as Om Malik puts it here today: access, or not, to demographic data? And also, from me to you: How do these differ from the [...]

  9. I’ve never understood what information is shared with Facebook app developers when a FB friend recommends a FB app. Tough to figure out from the TOU and privacy settings, too.

    This would seem to be a bomb lurking out there for all FB users.

  10. Weekend Reader – Communities, Rules & Privacy « Web Worker Daily Saturday, November 10, 2007

    [...] advertising platform are starting to sink in, and some folks are not very happy about them.  Om Malik is calling for a boycott of Facebook partners until this is resolved, while Nate Weiner has figured [...]

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