Facebook privacy meltdown: company removed opt-out prior to launch

Adam sez,
As reported on Boing Boing last week, MoveOn.org started a Facebook group and petition protesting Facebook's new feature that makes private purchases on other websites public on Facebook. (Group and petition linked to at www.MoveOn.org) Big news today, reported at CNET: Leaked screenshots of Facebook's original Beacon feature for corporate advertisers -- made public at TechCrunch.com earlier this month -- reveal that Facebook originally planned to give its users the ability to permanently opt out of having their private purchases made public on Facebook. Facebook evidently removed that option just before launching the new privacy-invading feature. Facebook users who are aware that their private purchases on other websites are being made public on Facebook must now opt out site by site, week by week, month by month. There is no permanent opt-out option -- let alone an opt-in policy.
"Facebook should explain why they chose at the last minute to put the wish lists of corporate advertisers ahead of the privacy interests of their users," said Adam Green, a spokesperson for MoveOn.org Civic Action. "Facebook has the potential to revolutionize how we communicate with each other and organize around issues together in a 21st century democracy. But to succeed, they need the trust of their users. The fact that Facebook pro-actively chose to make it harder for their users to keep private information from being made public will rub a lot of Facebook users the wrong way. The ultimate act of good faith would be to switch to an opt-in policy."
Link (Thanks, Adam!)


  1. This was brought to my attention by a friend who referred me to this post about how to block it:


    Upon reading it, however, I discovered the same problem could be easily overcome without installing yet-another Firefox addon. I simply added http://*facebook.com/beacon/* to my Adblock Plus* list of blocked elements. I assume that would work just as well. Either way, I’ve seen no evidence of this Beacon thing that everyone is in an uproar about. But I haven’t purchased anything online in quite a while, so maybe its just not interested in me…

    * http://adblockplus.org/en/

  2. Microsoft has just announced a similar privacy violation on the Xbox Live service. With less than a week’s notice anyone will be able to see who your friends are, and it’s opt-out instead of opt-in.

  3. I’m using the blocksite extension now to be sure I have some measure of control of the data I broadcast.

    It looks to me that Facebook are just in it for the money and most people will just stumble along unconsciously without thinking.

    Facebook collects lots of data if you install enough of those stupid apps. That’s what Facebook is. It’s harvesting data, sort of like Google but without the “don’t be evil” bit.

    If enough people use BlockSite things might change but in the end we get the culture we deserve.

  4. I opted out of Beacon the easy way – by quitting facebook.

    I see Facebook’s name time and time again on tech news sites, and it’s always something to do with either how fucking rich they are, or how badly they treat their users. I guess because of that I don’t want to be like most of my friends who “wouldnt have any kind of social life” without it. I think sometimes, it’s so sad that so many people’s social lives are dependent on a corporate giant like this.

    Annoyingly, I know the bastards can probably still see all the info i didn’t want them to see, even after i “deactivated” my account.

  5. Facebook is also now spamming — this appears to
    be a new problem, as none of my myriad spamtraps
    have caught anything from them previously. It remains
    to be seen whether this is a temporary problem, or the
    beginning of something larger, or otherwise.

  6. “Facebook should explain why they chose at the last minute to put the wish lists of corporate advertisers ahead of the privacy interests of their users”

    Let me try to rephrase this in a more meaningful way:

    “Facebook should explain why they chose at the last minue to put the wish lists of its customers ahead of the privacy interests of their product”

    If you’re a facebook user, you are the product. You are what facebook is selling. The advertisers are facebook’s customers. Is it any wonder facebook treats its users with contempt?

  7. I’m with @4 … as soon as I read about this I went and quit Facebook, letting them known in the little “why are you leaving” box that I’m sick of seeing story after story about how they’re violating users’ privacy.

  8. Yeah, I’m currently copying all the contact info for my Facebook friends into my address book. Then I’m going to get rid of my Facebook account.

    There just aren’t enough people that I 1) actually want to keep in touch with and 2) don’t keep in touch with any other way to make Facebook worth all the crud.

  9. Apparently, the only way anyone can imagine making money on the internet is by advertising. Sad. Stupid. Lacks imagination since this model isn’t really much different than TV.

  10. Pyros, the advertising model has a lot to recommend it. For one thing, it works.

  11. Oh wow! It’s been less than three weeks since I created my FaceBook account, and I carefully read their terms of service before doing so: they pretend to comply to the

    I asked Facebook to delete all of my account information from their databases after hearing about this. I got a form letter and reiterated that I wanted my information deleted because I found their data-gathering practices despicable. Here is what the customer service person told me to do:

    “If you want your information removed from our servers, we can do this for you. However, you need to first log in and delete all profile
    content. Once you have cleared your account, let us know, and we’ll take care of the rest. We apologize for any inconvenience this may

    The email address for privacy issues is privacy@facebook.com.

  12. My letter to a facebook helpdesk person after getting a form letter response is here. I’m fairly close nuking my profile.

  13. One temporary solution:

    throw random characters into any item that makes a “connection.” For example, I love the TV show “Gl278ee” and the movie “28 D@*&#ays Lat19er.”

    I don’t like this so much. Maybe I’ll ROT13 all the information on my profile.

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