Facebook Ruins Christmas?

MoveOn.org is annoyed with Facebook over privacy issues. Apparently, people on Facebook can see what you’ve been buying on sites unrelated to Facebook and share this information with your friends. According to MoveOn.org, this is not only a violation of privacy (the feature is opt-out rather than opt-in), it’s been ruining Christmas/Holidays/Birthdays/Whatever for Facebook users.

From MoveOn.org:

“Oh my gosh, my cousins entire christmas shopping list this week was displayed on the [Facebook News] feed. thats so messed up. This has gotta stop!” – Tasha Valdez from Michigan:

“I saw my gf bought an item i had been saying i wanted… so now part of my christmas gift has been ruined. Facebook is ruining christmas!” – Matthew Helfgott from NY

We thought this sounded psychotic so we logged in to our mostly-neglected Facebook account and sure enough…one of our friends had bought a T-shirt from Busted Tees. We asked him if he knew that this information was being broadcast on Facebook.

Guy We Know: man that is kinda creepy

Consumerist: apparently this is ruining people’s shopping for gift-type sh*t

Guy We Know: yeah I would prefer they’d not

Guy We Know: “User privacy is extremely important to Facebook. We designed Facebook Beacon to enable effortless sharing, but we’ve also put in features to protect user privacy. When you send an action to Facebook, the user is immediately alerted of the story you wish to publish and will be alerted again when they sign into Facebook. The user can choose to opt out of the story in either instance, but the user doesn’t need to take any action for the story to be published on Facebook.”

Guy We Know: yeah that never happened

Consumerist: Ugh.

Facebook must respect privacy [MoveOn via BoingBoing]
(Photo:Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten )


Edit Your Comment

  1. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    It’s pretty amazing how in less than 4 weeks Facebook has gone from a dream application to a nightmare.

  2. v12spd says:

    Yeah, I made a car reservation through hotwire and it posted it on facebook. I was highly confused and couldnt find the opt out settings for facebook beacon anywhere in my privacy settings. Now I just watch when I make purchases. Its kind of creepy…

  3. GoBobbyGo says:

    Nice job saying it’s an opt-out feature but not actually TELLING us how to opt out.

  4. rmuser says:

    It makes you opt out of every site of a Beacon partner individually. There’s no way to just opt out of the whole thing. Besides, such a thing should have been opt-in from the start anyway.

  5. Televiper says:

    I’m finding Facebook to be an extremely maliciously programmed website. Is it just me or are the mini-applications more tuned to propagating themselves across the network than actually serving a function? It seems you can’t do anything without asking it not to send out a request to every single on of your friends. I think I’ll just nuke the account soon.

  6. eelmonger says:

    I stopped logging on to Facebook shortly after they started broadcasting every facet of my life. Does anyone really need that much information about someone else? On the bright side, think of how long they’ve been collecting this stuff secretly and selling it to marketing groups.

  7. canerican says:

    Pretty much every application is annoying.

    I don’t want to be a pirate.
    I don’t want to be a ninja.
    I don’t care that you like the Bills.
    You won’t make my vote for Barrak O’bama

  8. Supposedly, you’re given the choice to opt out when the purchase is being made — a little box should pop up asking if you want the story sent to your Facebook feed.

    The catch (and its a big catch) is that if you don’t click ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Facebook assumes you meant ‘yes.’ (It explain this in the help pages that nobody reads.) So ignoring the box is the same as approving the story. This seems like bad design to me.

    I’m wondering if pop-up blockers are keeping people from seeing the opt-out boxes. Meg, you should ask that Guy You Know if he uses a pop-up blocker.

  9. hubris says:

    Ugh, screw Facebook. It was creepy enough when the News Feed thing started, then all the stupid applications started showing up, and then they started sharing info with anyone who asked, regardless of whether you wanted to share it. Well, that was enough for me. “Deactivate account”, go screw yourself Facebook.

  10. banks says:

    I liked facebook briefly, when it was just a neat little way to communicate with people at my university.

    When they decided to be MySpace 2.0, and the started up the whole voyeuristic/exhibitionist broadcast of every little life detail, ala twitter, I got out like a shot. I’m part of this generation, I’m only 25 years old, but I just do not understand what happened to the idea of privacy.

  11. dapuddle says:

    To opt out simply go into edit/account/cancel account.

  12. krunk4ever says:

    [howtosplitanatom.com] teaches you how to disable the beacon on firefox.

  13. Mr. Gunn says:

    Wait…why would anyone want to post what they’re buying to facebook? Am I missing something here?

  14. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    Facebook has an option to edit privacy about external website informatoin. However, having just looked at it and clicking “edit settings” there are in fact no settings to edit.

    Good one, facebook!

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    Can’t tell if that kitty is The Cat That Stole Christmas, or if kitty’s simply in dire need of a double-fat, double-shot latte…

  16. JackHandey says:

    To me, the thing that makes Facebook really creepy is their knowledge of who your friends are, photos of you and your friends, your address, your friends’ contact information, books you have read, political views, clubs, etc. The sheer amount of data they hold could put them (or someone else) in a position to go way beyond simple market research or targeted advertising.

    It is easy think of reasons why someone, including the government, might want such information. Very few of those reasons are good. Taking a step toward to the paranoid slippery slope, it is worth pointing out that the Holocaust was aided by technology (which was advanced for its time) that allowed tracking and categorization of individuals. If you are curious, do a Google search for IBM and the Holocaust.

  17. When I click on “Privacy” and “External Websites,” I get this:

    Show your friends what you like and what you’re up to outside of Facebook. When you take actions on the sites listed below, you can choose to have those actions sent to your profile.

    Please note that these settings only affect notifications on Facebook. You will still be notified on affiliate websites when they send stories to Facebook. You will be able to decline individual stories at that time.

    No sites have tried sending stories to your profile.

    There are no sites listed below. What does this mean?

  18. rmuser says:

    @loquaciousmusic: When you go to a site that attempts to send information to Facebook, it’ll show up in that list. Until a site does attempt to send information to Facebook, it won’t show up in the list. So every time you go to another site that tries to do this, you have to go back and opt out of that individual site again.

  19. Kierst_thara says:

    Okay, I have a FaceBook account, but I don’t use it much, so I’m confused. How do the online retailers know whether you have FaceBook account to send your purchase information to for posting? Do you have to be logged in to FaceBook or give your FaceBook info to the retailers at purchase time? Or is it some kind of credit card/name matching deal where the merchant has access to your details from FaceBook’s database?

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems like this would be something you’d explicitly have to opt or sign in to for the merchant to be able to make a connection between Joe Smith’s Busted Tee credit card order, and Joe Smith’s FaceBook account.

  20. hn333 says:

    God I hate cats.

  21. rmuser says:

    @Kierst_thara: I think these offsite pages are embedding a script hosted on Facebook, which is therefore able to access your Facebook cookies, so it can tell if you’re logged in, and if so, what your name is. In a sane world, it would be opt-in.

  22. threlkelded says:

    Bye bye, Facebook account. Nice knowing you, honey.

  23. overbysara says:

    I just tried to make sure I could opt out of this… but when I found it in the privacy section, it wouldn’t let me turn it off because I haven’t purchased anything yet to turn off. that’s f**ked up man.

  24. joellevand says:

    Hmm, that’s funny, I haven’t encountered the problem — possibly because I delete cookies after every session of FireFox so there’s no way to tie me to my facebook account if you’re just a trolling robot.

  25. Parting says:

    That’s why I don’t trust Facebook…

  26. swalve says:

    In other news, pot calls kettle black.

  27. darkclawsofchaos says:

    so how does this happen, does the company post this, or is there some program that reads your cookies? Sorry, I’m not a facebooker (to lazy make one and didn’t like giving stalkers an easy chance), so can someone tell me?

  28. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @rmuser: are you sure? that makes it sound like spyware, something that can be abused and used for identity theft, especially after that article of where some facebook employees wer able to abuse their power

  29. consumer_999 says:

    Why the hell is anyone even using facebook? The first thing it does after you register is ask you for your email password. Read that again. We’re not talking about your facebook password; it asks for your personal email password. Doesn’t a giant red flag go up in people’s minds at that point? Yes, you can skip that step, but is that the kind of sleazy site you want handling your personal information?

    Please enter your bank account number here:________

    (This is only so we can keep your profile accurate and up to date. We promise we won’t do anything else with it.)

  30. mthrndr says:

    screw facebook, and screw moveon.org

  31. rmuser says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: Sound like? Heck, I’d say it IS spyware. Possibly even an XSS attack.

    @consumer_999: Damn right. Encouraging people to enter their login details on third-party sites just trains them to fall for phishing.

  32. dreamcatcher2 says:

    I opted out – you do this in the “privacy” page. However *it still published stories after I opted out*. I opted out on the story itself, and then I opted out in general, and it continued to display these stories on the newsfeed. I reported it as a bug, and got a canned reply in response.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this “no way to opt out” thing is part of their monetization plan – I’m sure they are being paid by these other companies to display stories about people using their products. Obviously they don’t want people to opt out of that, that’s money in the bank for them.

  33. Magicube says:

    And some of my clients think I’m crazy when I say “I’m not sure you want to deal with social networking sites….” Thank you for proving me right, Facebook.

  34. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @rmuser: so laziness has actually saved my ass then, not only I gotout of meaningless work and commitment, I also prevented this shit too

  35. cjc says:

    Ob: Firefox + NoScript FTW!

    Not being a Facebook user, my understanding from reading this is that Facebook retail partners basically XSS you?

  36. HOP says:

    i don’t use any of those crappy programs………

  37. TWinter says:

    Hmmmm. I think people are missing an important point in all of this. You do have to install a Facebook application to enable this. If you don’t install the application to begin with nothing too bad is going to happen.(For non-Facebookers, Facebook has a bewildering array of add on features, many of which are produced by third parties. Some are fun, some are useful, but the majority suck.)

    I think the problem is that people use these sites without thinking what sort of info they are putting out into the world and the implications of adding these applications

  38. Propaniac says:

    @TWinter: Can anyone confirm this? I rarely log in to Facebook and haven’t enabled any of the new add-ons, but hearing about this made me really worried that all my friends are going to see what I’m buying for them. If it only does it if you install an add-on that says “Show all your friends what you’re buying!!!”, that’s a) pretty stupid for anyone who’s complaining and b) a rather important detail that should be mentioned in the coverage of the issue.

  39. @Mr. Gunn: It’s call “conspicuous consumption.” Look it up.

    @consumer_999: I assume you’re referring to the “search your gmail addressbook” stuff. Yeah, it’s dumb, I don’t do it, but Facebook hardly invented the dumb idea.

    @darkclawsofchaos: Facebook’s best explanations are on the Facebook help pages. Can’t help you if you don’t have an account, but you don’t really need help if you don’t have an account, do you?

    @TWinter: You’re totally wrong — there is no application to install. Facebook’s partner sites are loading a javascript from Facebook servers so that Facebook can use its cookies to associate the user with the transaction.

    @Propaniac: According to the Facebook help pages (am I the only Facebook user who reads those?), the external site notifications only work if you’re logged into Facebook. Either don’t use the “remember me” box when you log in, or remember to use “log out” link (top right corner of every page on Facebook) before you go shopping.

    You know, I’m getting the feeling that there are many people on Consumerist who don’t know how browser cookies work or what they’re used for. It’s not like Facebook is the first website to try to track people this way.

  40. egyptiangenie says:

    from the Terms of Use you see when you register:

    “By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company [Facebook] an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.”

    The KIND OF OK part:
    “You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.”

  41. meneye says:

    facebook can do whatever the heck it wants. If you don’t want that info up there, then don’t give it out. stop bitchin’

  42. DallasDMD says:

    @meneye: Thats the thing; people are not willingly giving it out. Facebook is putting it up there on their own accord without permission!

  43. FMulder says:

    deactivate does not equal delete, unfortunately

    i don’t even have my real name on facebook, but i am still conscious of giving up too much privacy — it should be expected that facebook has a purpose that isn’t about our entertainment.

  44. spitfire101 says:

    I sent them a rather annoyed email asking why there wasnt an “opt out of this feature – completely” option within the privacy settings; the stories have to be sent to facebook before you have the option to opt out of them, and if you just close the notifications they’ll post anyway. this is what they sent back to me:


    Facebook is now affiliated with a variety of websites, all of whom can, with your permission, send the actions you take on their sites back into Facebook. These actions will appear in your Mini-Feed and may appear in the News Feeds of your friends.

    If you are logged in to Facebook and take an action on an affiliated site, the website will alert you that it has a story it would like to send to your Facebook profile. You can then choose to take the following actions:

    1. You can click the ‘Learn More’ link to find out more about that story or edit your privacy settings for these external stories.
    2. You can click the ‘This isn’t me’ link if the Facebook account does not match the person using the external site. In this case, Facebook will never publish the story or otherwise share any information with the user’s friends on Facebook.
    3. You can click ‘No Thanks’ in which case Facebook will never publish that story or otherwise share any information with your friends on Facebook.
    4. You can click ‘close’ or simply ignore the notification in which case the story will be sent to Facebook, but will not be published on the site. Next time you navigate to the Facebook Home page after interacting with an affiliate site, you’ll receive a second reminder that the affiliate website is about to publish a story on your behalf. If you select ‘See More’ and then click the ‘X’ next to any story, the story will not be published. If you click ‘close’ or navigate away from your home page, the external story will then be published in your Mini-Feed and potentially the News Feeds of your friends.

    Please keep in mind that affiliate websites never have access to your profile information, nor does Facebook receive any personal data about you from an affiliate site. Let us know if you have any further questions regarding the privacy settings for this feature.

    Thanks for contacting Facebook,

    Customer Support Representative

    Gee, that really helped. thanks, Joey.

  45. TWinter says:

    @Michael Bauser: Eeeek! Thanks for the correction – I guess I misunderstood what the article was talking about.

    I have not had any of my purchases reported nor seen any purchases from friends (and I have quite a few) in the news feeds, so I assumed this was just another stupid application.

    I now get why people are so freaked by this.

  46. inno says:

    My sentiments exactly. Is moveon really the organization to undertake this?! I mean, so like, SCHIP has been passed, telco’s held accountable for domestic spying, runaway military spending reigned in, soft money eliminated from national politics, right? Mission accomplished! Time to move on to the smaller fish. And then they have the fucking audacity to send me emails asking for money to finance ads. Suck a fat one, moveon.

  47. bbbici says:

    man, that is a mean looking cat! don’t mess with it!

  48. Rusted says:

    @hn333: I don’t think that cat likes you either.

  49. lestat730 says:

    Now I don’t personally use Facebook or anything but why the hell would anyone want to share what they are purchasing with anyone? Even if they are friends or family, I think it’s a ridiculous invasion of privacy when this happens to people who have no idea they are posting this information about themselves. Hell I don’t even like the fact that people can see what I buy/sell on eBay for a few weeks in my profile. I can imagine this is more then just ruining the surprise of a holiday gift but also creating potentially embarrassing consequences in some cases. What a horrible and scary idea…

  50. lesbiansayswhat says:

    Facebook is the largest and least obnoxious social networking site. I stay in contact with hundreds of people from colleges and organizations I worked with whenever I want. I don’t even have to publish my email but I know that if someone wants to contact me or if I want to contact someone else I can. Forever. Also, unlike Flickr (a site made for photo viewing and storage) it has an unlimited amount of storage for visible pictures. I know so many people who don’t quit just because the photo option is so convenient.

    It’s taken me a few months to figure out how to work the multi-tiered privacy settings (which are always effing changing) in the way I want. I learned, without Facebook’s help, that even though you delete a feed from your mini-feed it still goes into your friends’ news-feeds. I learned that applications will do their best to spawn themselves into your friends’ profiles unless you un-click the right notifications and are mostly not worth the trouble. People ask why not just quit Facebook? I have too much to gain to keep bridges with people from my past. Facebook can change. Unfortunately until then people will just have to be pro-active about their privacy.

  51. bookling says:

    What the hell? I use Facebook on the time and haven’t seen any of this. Haven’t seen any posted items about things my friends have bought, or anything posted about me. What “affiliated sites” are these? The ones that advertise on Facebook, like BustedTees.com?

  52. jeffjohnvol says:

    Anything that gets moveon.org upset is a good thing in my book. what a bunch of losers.