Blog Post

Facebook Beacon Revamp: Will It Go Far Enough?

Facebook may announce alterations to the Beacon social advertising system as early as today, according to BusinessWeek. Perhaps Facebook will now allow global opt-out of publishing third-party activities on the Facebook site — and this would appease many who have complained.

But that may not go far enough in protecting users’ privacy. Some people may also want the ability to stop Facebook not just from publishing information from third-party sites, but also from gathering that information at all.

Many Facebook users have complained that they shouldn’t have to opt out every time Facebook wants to publish transaction information from third-party sites. Besides, some critics say, the opt-out notices are so subtle that many people don’t even notice them.

Blogger and Wiley marketing director, Ellen Gerstein, discovered how subtle those notices were when she congratulated her babysitter on buying a purple ski jacket. Her babysitter had no idea that her purchases were shared on Facebook. Ellen said, “I cannot imagine I would want anyone on Facebook to know what I am purchasing.”

When Facebook announced Beacon, Om called it a potential privacy hairball, noting that even if you opt out of the information publishing, Facebook still knows what you’re doing.

Bokardo blogger Joshua Porter highlights this same problem:

Most people are worried about what happens when the shared information gets back to Facebook, and their Facebook friends see their outside activity….

My main concern was that Facebook and Blockbuster were talking at all.

So when the Facebook announcement comes out, we should be looking not only for the ability to opt out of publishing transaction information to Facebook, but the ability to opt out of sharing any information outside of Facebook as well.

9 Responses to “Facebook Beacon Revamp: Will It Go Far Enough?”

  1. Is it that Facebook will modify, not spike Beacon ads??? Confusing though…Well its looking like Facebook is up for making some serious changes..Finally, if users fail to approve or decline the Facebook alert on the partner site, Facebook will no longer assume the user is agreeing by omission. Instead, they will offer another, more visible opportunity to opt-out to users on Facebook itself. If no action is taken within two days, Facebook will assume the user complies and will publish the action in the news feed.

    Are they trying to catch users off guard??? Or they jst trying an explicit way to know what has happened and for them to publish.


  2. Rodney Rumford

    Facebook will make changes as they move forward for sure. A constant state of change is the only constant for facebook. Beacon will most likely be tweaked rather than a major overhaul. There technical challenges to implement any changes they might do if the changes reside outside of facebook at participating sites.

    You can read my more detailed thoughts on this whole Facebook Beacon issue here:


    Rodney Rumford

  3. Facebook made the same communication problem with the NewsFeed, but here’s the difference; all the data aggregated in the original NewsFeed was already happening inside the walls of Facebook, everything pulled from Beacon exists outside the walls of Facebook. If users want to share their purchases, they’ll already be doing so through wallposts, and favourite movie/book apps etc. Opt-out is not cool.

    Facebook has been around long enough for the users’ preferred level of data to hit a happy medium. People already share everything they want to share – everything pulled-in above and beyond this (via technological innovations) is probably there to justify the hefty valuations.

  4. Facebook Beacon was a huge mistake, IMHO, and I find it shocking that anyone thought they were doing users a service by opting us all in by default.

    Coming from an email marketing background, I appreciate how difficult it is to convince users to opt-in of their own accord, but sharing this much information without our explicit permission is downright disgusting.

    As one of the articles on this topic said, what if I was buying a book called “Coping with AIDS”? It’s not all about purple scarves and ruined Christmas surprises, it’s personal lives that could be ruined by it.