Beacon: The Eye of Facebook

Posted on December 2, 2007

Facebook first took a beating when its Beacon service was ruining Christmas by broadcasting information about gifts Facebook users had just purchased to all of their Facebook friends. But this was just scratching the surface of larger invasion of privacy issues with Beacon. We blogged earlier that Facebook's Beacon remained a problem because it was continuing to gather information about Facebook users even after they provided a way for people to keep details about their purchases from hitting Facebook's news stream. Beacon was a pretty clever name for Facebook's invasive new feature. A Beacon sounds kind, helpful and friendly. Something more sinister like the Eye of Facebook might have been a better name for Facebook's feature that gathers packets of information about you as you surf the web and sends them back to Facebook with no additional benefit to you whatsoever. Facebook is trying to use Beacon - it's all seeing eye - as a way to see much more of what you do on the Internet while still retaining its "walled garden" business model.

Here are some of the more recent stories on Facebook's Beacon.

  • The New York Times Bits blog says Coca-Cola has decided not to use Beacon for now. Coca-Cola says they were told it was an opt-in service. This has many wondering whether Facebook lied to its advertisers.
  • Scott Karp says Facebook acted like it had a monopoly and treated its users like "'brainless meat for the grinder' - kind of like TV networks did when they force fed us 3-4 for minutes of mind-numbing commercials."
  • Even deleting your Facebook account may not help -- it may not be easy to do either.
  • Bubblegeneration writes that some of the pressure for Facebook to monetize is coming from investors. "There's another side to this story as well. I'm not sure how much pressure Facebook is getting from investors to "monetize". I'd wager that it's a great deal indeed."
  • Meanwhile, Facebook tried unsuccessfully to get some documents about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg removed from the 02138mag.com website. There's some juicy irony there with Facebook trying to have information removed from the Internet while they are blocking their users from removing information.

    Update: Paid Content says Overstock.com and Travelocity are also not using Facebook Beacon: "Overstock.com suspended the Beacon program on Nov. 21, and as of Friday, hadn't reinstated it, according to Mediapost. Also Travelocity, although touted by Facebook as a launch advertiser, was troubled enough by the program that it had not started using it as of Thursday."

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