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Date Mon 03 December 2007

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Facebook recently rolled out the Beacon service which provides Facebook with “advertising” information.

A quick overview is available at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140182-c,onlinepriacy/article.html

The bottom line is that whenever you visit a participating site (there are over 40 so far, including Amazon, Ebay, and many others), information in YOUR purchases, browsing habits, etc. is sent back to Facebook. Most scarily, this continues to happen EVEN AFTER YOU LOG OUT OF FACEBOOK!

This is all detailed in the blog of a CA.com security researcher: http://community.ca.com/blogs/securityadvisor/archive/2007/11/29/facebook-s-misrepresentation-of-beacon-s-threat-to-privacy-tracking-users-who-opt-out-or-are-not-logged-in.aspx

In 2007, I’ve become used to gross invasions of my privacy. I’ve become used to the fact that Facebook is becoming hopelessly commercialized, putting ads in my MiniFeed, and turning into MySpace (albeit worth billions).

However, the Beacon technology is a gross outrage. Most users were never informed of it - I know I wasn’t. It acts surreptitiously, collecting data on your purchasing and browsing habits, and sending that data back to Facebook. Who knows what happens to it after that.

Even worse, supposedly, some items purchased are published in your MiniFeed on your profile - not only is this turning your profile into even more advertising for Ebay, Amazon, etc. but it’s not keeping things exactly private. I guess this will make people think twice before buying that blow-up doll on Ebay, but in all seriousness, I don’t want to check my profile one day and find a list of what I bought everyone for Christmas.

There are a few groups dedicated to this - One that I started: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6061274374 and a few others: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=19940635616 http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=14537275404

Most appalling, Facebook doesn’t have any way to opt-out of the service, and signing out of Facebook does NOT stop information from being sent.

Luckily, if you use Mozilla Firefox (www.getfirefox.com) (you DO use firefox, right???) you can use the BlockSite extension to (supposedly) block all data from being sent to Beacon. (This isn’t possible in IE). Details can be found at: http://www.wikihow.com/Blok-Facebook-Beacon

Just another reason why it seems like Facebook is doing whatever they want - more to the point, whatever will make them worth more. I understand capitalism and their right to money, but given that Facebook is valued at well over $1 BILLION, and gaining every day, I’d think that at some point they can let the value even out a bit, and go back to respecting their users. Specifically, at least warning users through a mass message when they implement something like this.


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