Social networking giant, Facebook
promises to make changes to its controversial advertising system Beacon, amid uproar from users regarding their privacy.
Beacon is a part of Facebook Ads, that was introduced to an audience of advertising experts in New York on 07 November 2007. Facebook Ads allows any and all brands to create a profile where their consumers can become Fans, and additionally allows them to employ highly targeted advertising around their profile based on a users personal details.
Beacon goes further. By signing on as a partner of Facebook's Beacon, brands can employ a small amount of code on their website which then feeds back details of a Facebook-users activity on that site. To date, over 40 websites had signed up to Beacon, including The New York Times, Sony Online, TripAdvisor, Blockbuster, eBay and Amazon.
Facebook then publishes these details to a users friends list via its popular News Feed and Mini Feed features in the hopes of fuelling third party endorsement. Last week, MoveOn.org
stated that through Beacon, Facebook could cause embarassment to its users and subsequently set up a Facebook group
"Petition: Facebook, stop invading my privacy!" which at the time of writing (30/11/07 at 15:30), has over 54,700 members. Facebook has over 55 million users worldwide.
Another Facebook group says, "Facebook, Beacon is the last straw. A utility that spys on you and tells your friends what you buy from retailers! Show Facebook that people will stop using the site if the advertising continues to affect privacy!!!"
Users were given the opportunity to opt-out of Beacon on a per-site basis, but angry users complained that this opportunity was brief and confusing. Amid mass media attention (including claims that Beacon is in fact illegal
) and user-revolt, Facebook have agreed to modify the service to be automatically opt-out on a site-by-site basis via the Facebook website.
A Facebook spokesperson says, "No stories will be published without users proactively consenting. We appreciate feedback from all Facebook users and made some changes to Beacon in the past day. Users now have more control over the stories that get published to their Mini-Feed and potentially to their friends' News Feeds."
, "Facebook may use information in your profile without identifying you as an individual to third parties."
It states, "Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services... in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalized experience."
This is not the first time Facebook have faced criticism for new introductions to the social network.
On Wednesday, social technology provider Pluck announced
its plans to integrate users activities on major media sites such as Reuters, The Washington Post and The Economist with both Facebook and OpenSocial
. Pluck SiteLife will be implemented accross social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace
, Bebo, LinkedIn and hi5 by mid-2008.