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Facebook founder announces changes to advertising tool Beacon

Rachel Hawkes (Social Media Portal) - 06 December 2007

The 23 year old chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologised via the company blog for the release of their controversial advertising system, Beacon.

Beacon is a part of Facebook Ads, a new advertising model that was introduced on 07 November 2007.  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.  Over 40 websites have signed up to Beacon, including The New York Times, Sony Online, TripAdvisor, Blockbuster, eBay and Amazon.

Through Beacon, Facebook then automatically published these details to a users friends list via its popular News Feed and Mini Feed features.  Fueled by public backlash and concern regarding privacy, 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 grew to over 60,000 members. 

Beacon was initially an automatically opt-in feature, however amid much public attention and concern for privacy, Facebook modified Beacon to be automatically opt-out.  However this did not difuse the situation, as user's behaviour and activity on third party sites was still recorded and sent back to Facebook, where it was stored and offered to the user to 'not broadcast.'

Zuckerberg comments, "It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share. 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."

As of 05 November, users wanting to by-pass Beacon altogether, were given the ability to do so.

"Last week we changed Beacon to be an opt-in system, and today we're releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely. You can find it here. 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," concludes Zuckerberg.

Facebook has over 55 million users worldwide.

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