Thursday, December 06, 2007

Facebook Apologizes for Privacy Miscue

After a protracted and organized protest by Facebook users against Beacon, a new Facebook advertising application that many argued violated their privacy, the company backtracked yesterday, and agreed to alter the function to allow users to turn it off.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg utilized the company's blog to apologize for Facebook's errors in developing the system and its clumsy handling of the Beacon launch.

Baltimore Sun reports:

SAN FRANCISCO - Beacon, the online advertising system that was supposed to light Facebook Inc.'s way to riches, has created such a dark storm of controversy that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told users yesterday they could turn it off.

The sharp reversal in the face of huge public outcry is an attempt to restore the company's battered image with its more than 55 million users and the marketers trying to reach them.

Zuckerberg, Facebook's 23- year-old principal founder, posted a mea culpa on the social-networking site's blog.

"We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them," Zuckerberg wrote in notifying users that they could opt out completely. "We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it."

Facebook last week tweaked the Beacon system, saying it would no longer alert users' friends about what they do and buy on the site without their explicit permission.

The move came in response to a mass online protest led by political activist group, which in two weeks organized more than 50,000 users. But the changes did not appease privacy experts who have been critical of Beacon.

Beacon is an online tracking tool that keeps tabs on the goods and services Facebook users buy or rent on partner sites such as and, then broadcasts those activities to friends on a news feed. Marketers hoped the system would put their brands in front of Facebook users.

Instead, users complained that the system was too intrusive and even ruined Christmas surprises when they saw what gifts their friends and family were buying.

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- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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