Facebook Status: Mark Zuckerberg is Sorry About Beacon

Yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized about the social network’s poorly implemented, privacy-invading Beacon ad program, which broadcast users’ off-Facebook activity in news feeds and caused an ensuing ruckus among geeks and privacy advocates.

From Zuckerberg’s blog post statement:

Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it.

This has been the philosophy behind our recent changes. 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.

Facebook has, as of yesterday, allowed users to turn off Beacon entirely, but what’s fascinating about this apology is that the word “advertising” does not appear once in the entire blog post. By framing Beacon just as an information-sharing feature, Zuckerberg is sidestepping one of the most offensive parts of Beacon – that its sole purpose is actually utilizing Facebook’s massive user base to market to each other via what are implied pseudo-recommendations.

{If you love Facebook beacons, you will love the “Wired” Act the Senate is pushing that guarantees we have no control over the use and sale of our personal health records. Facebook users were outraged to find they had no control over information about what they purchased—just imagine how upset they will be when they find out they have no control at all over their sensitive medical records. Due to massive public criticism, Facebooks’ founder decided to stop broadcasting users purchases via the Beacon ad program. Now Mark Zuckerman, Facebook’s founder, is affirming Americans’ longstanding rights to privacy and control over their personal information. Zuckerman said, “Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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