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Summary:

Update: It’s mea culpa time for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The social networking site’s founder and CEO has finally succumbed to the criticism of its ad platform, Beacon, and delivered a confessional worthy of “Oprah.” We say better late than never. But is that enough? Probably not, and here is why.

Update: Frankly, I am myself getting sick and tired of repeating myself about the all-important “information transmission from partner sites” aspect of Beacon. That question remains unanswered in Zuckerberg’s blog post, which upon second read is rather scant on actual privacy information. Here is what he writes:

If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.”

So essentially he’s saying the information transmitted won’t be stored but will perhaps be interpreted. Will this happen in real time? If that is the case, then the advertising “optimization” that results from “transmissions” is going to continue. Right!

If they were making massive changes, one would have seen options like “Don’t allow any web sites to send stories to Facebook” or “Don’t track my actions outside of Facebook” in this image below.

facebookprivacy.png

I think Facebook needs to clarify this point further, because currently, despite this mea culpa, I don’t think it’s easy to trust Facebook to do the right thing with the information they continue to collect. You can also share your thoughts on our Facebook Question of the Day Application. (Original post below the fold.)

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, after taking it on the chin for nearly two weeks, is apologizing about the company’s Beacon advertising platform fiasco. In his blog post, in which he explains his side of the story and rationalizes his reasoning, there is one paragraph which says it all:

We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. While I am disappointed with our mistakes, we appreciate all the feedback we have received from our users.

He goes onto say that while he thought Beacon was a great idea, the company might have gone overboard.

The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends.

No shit! I think they tried to push the limits, and got some push back, and that’s that. Regardless, had people not contacted them, as Zuckerberg puts it, they would have gotten away with it.

Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I’m not proud of the way we’ve handled this situation and I know we can do better.

I think this is a good move by Zuckerberg and I hope his team learns from it. This is the second time they have tried to test the limits of their community and gotten some flack for it. It would be better if they asked — they are a social community — and being social means listening and talking with each other first, not after the fact.

Our entire coverage of the Beacon Gate

  1. I was starting to think the apology wouldn’t come. Better late than never I guess.

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  2. Your last line really hits the nail on the head. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and each time it happens again it makes people more skeptical/wary of what Facebook is doing. It would be really easy to get user opinion beforehand as they already have the tools to do so…why they wouldn’t do something so seemingly obvious is beyond me. Hell, they’d probably even get suggestions on improving such ideas (and they’d be free!).

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  3. Really ironic to see a DoubleClick ad on a post about Beacon, since (to my mind) they were the last company to merge PII with anonymous browsing behavior, and you know what happened there! (see http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=1455141)

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  4. If no one makes a mistake how can we learn? The user how to take the drivers seat and / or the service provider how to provide a service user want …

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  5. [...] to wonder: how many more times are they going to get whacked for similar ventures? I think Om Malik has a good point: if Facebook is a social network, then why not ask users what they would or wouldn’t be [...]

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  6. Well, to late. I shut down my profile. This company can not be trusted. Zuckerberg has a brite future but he needs to really grow up and gain some experience before he can run a company this size.
    The generic PR template that “we are sorry” just does not cut it.

    This company in no different than Club Penguin targeting teens and young adults whose greatest asset is time, not money. Time will tell, but they will NEVER become the next Google. There are already far to many companies doing the same thing and their “offering” is NOT disruptive imo.

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  7. well. i already close my profile. I dun trust someone who lie and find so much excuses.

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  8. Zuckerberg’s post isn’t an admission that FB did anything wrong; it’s just him say they didn’t do it properly.

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  9. Occam’s Razor might encourage us to believe that Beacon wasn’t some attempt to get away with something, but the result of a really young CEO’s assumption that all people share his (and his generation’s) disregard for privacy.

    But does Zuckerberg’s motivation matter when you’re deciding whether to trust Facebook? Beacon, and the way Facebook has tried to recover from user reactions (and the way Facebook has managed app invitations) suggests that at some fundamental level the Facebook management team just doesn’t respect user privacy. Maybe we can force fixes for the mistakes we can see, but the company will probably just keep trying to share more of our info without our knowledge, and some of these attempts will be invisible to us.

    If they want to build user trust they should announce a company philosophy of complete transparency and user control over personal information, and then they should back up that philosophy with re-designed features, interface and internal processes. Otherwise, next!

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