Earlier this month Facebook announced their new social ad program called Beacon that sends and receives your personal information to and from advertisers that will allow them to make money in several different ways. It allows them to use your endorsement (without you actually giving it) to your Facebook network. It also allows them to send you more targeted ads, increasing your worth to their advertisers. It’s different from other services that try to do the same thing because it doesn’t obfuscate your information. It actually sends your purchase history and clicking history to advertisers in the Beacon program.
An unfortunate example of how this can backfire surfaced when Sean Lane' purchase of his wife’s Christmas gift was broadcasted to over 700 people – including his wife.
Thankfully, organizations like MoveOn have pushed Facebook so hard, they got them to fall over and add an opt-in option giving the user more control over what gets published. So now your purchase information might not be sent to your friends and a bunch of ad-buyers, but they’re still collecting it! This doesn’t make me comfortable at all. It didn’t leave some other people comfortable either, so they built a plug-in to Firefox that blocks Beacon from sending/receiving.
I’m a Facebook fan and although I’ll continue my membership, I have to say this had made me reluctant to click through Facebook ads and will make more more aware of my privacy options when it comes to online purchases. I think they’ve crossed a line here and although they’re now back-pedaling, their willingness to sell me out by violating privacy in such a way is not at all encouraging.