Facebook Steps back (a little) from the Beacon Precipice

kinnon —  November 30, 2007 — Leave a comment

Facebookgopheradsversion CONFRONTED WITH GROWING RESISTANCE TO its new ad program, Facebook late Thursday said it would no longer publish information about users’ online purchases without their explicit consent. – Online Media Daily

It sounds like a victory for those of us who questioned what they are doing. And. At some levels it is.

However, Facebook is still stalking and gathering your data – and looking for ways to monetize it. It is fear that has caused them to step back a little. Fear of ending up on the "slushpile" of social media history. So they momentarily appear responsive. Unfortunately their basic motivation (profiting on your data) hasn’t changed. To repeat the tech curmudgeon, John C. Dvorak,

…it’s not social networking but marketing…
  …the social network is less about the social part and more about the sales pitch.

Facebookads1 As much as you Facebookians may love the data-sucking, data-selling entity – it is all about monetizing that data for them – they aren’t altruists looking for the best way to serve you. Their clients are the marketers. You are the targets.

Keep the 15 billion dollar valuation in mind as you poke, super-poke, throw turkeys or whatever in the land of Facebook. All that data is being tracked, evaluated and stored – to better serve their clientel, Microsoft et al.

UPDATE: Read Om Malik’s post, please.

UPDATE 1a: (Added after 2 but I think it’s a little more important.) From Umair Haque,

Why didn’t Google launch a Google Beacon? After all, it has vastly more data than Facebook, and, because it’s Google every retailer, publisher, advertiser etc under the sun would scramble desperately to join.

A Google beacon might transmit details of your searches to your friends, when you click on an ad, for example. The details aren’t the point – the economics are: Google could make a near-term killing via a (bigger, more valuable) Beacon style service.

So why didn’t/doesn’t Google do it? Simple: because, though it makes Google better off in the short run, it makes people worse off in the long run.

That’s what evil is about. And that’s what Facebook can’t process – because its a company with much intelligence, passion, and commitment – but no wisdom, empathy, or courage.

Does that sound familiar? It should: it’s exactly the DNA of Microsoft.

UPDATE 2: David Weinberger adds,

…Facebook overall is showing itself not to be on its users side. There is no reason not to give users a big red opt out button — making the whole thing opt in would be even better — except that FB knows we would use it. FB is choosing its own interests over its users’.

And, no, not every company does that. Sure, there’s self-interest in all that we do and all that our organizations do. But companies choose sides. Almost all companies use their customers. A few are truly on their customers’ side. Now we know where FB stands.

And this from TechCrunch:

…Coca-Cola didn’t realize that Beacon wouldn’t be opt-in, and this was key in their withdrawal of support, and continued absence from the program:

“We have adopted a bit of a ‘wait and see’ as far as what we are going to do with Beacon because we are not sure how consumers are going to respond,” said Carol Kruse, Coke’s vice president of global interactive marketing, this morning..“I, like you, certainly understood that it would be opt-in. That’s what I heard before as well as what I heard on the 6th.”

As we know Facebook has now flipped on Beacon, switching to an opt-in model after widespread criticism from users and groups including Moveon.org. The evolving story though is how Facebook got to this point, particularly given key partners were led to believe that the program was opt-in, suggesting that someone, or something caused Facebook to switch to an opt-out model at the 11th hour.

Might as well go for a soda, after all.





A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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