Facebook Might Revamp Shopping Stalking Feature

Responding to criticism from MoveOn.org and consumer advocates, Facebook might revamp “beacon,” its feature that stalks your purchases throughout the web and broadcasts them to your friends.

BusinessWeek says they have a source close to Facebook that says executives are discussing changes to the controversial marketing tool.

Executives of the three-year-old company were in deep talks over proposed changes late into the afternoon on Nov. 28, according to a person familiar with the matter. At issue is the Beacon program, which alerts members’ Facebook “friends” to purchases and other activities on third-party Web sites. A spokesperson for the company declined to discuss changes, reiterating an earlier statement: “Facebook is listening to feedback from its users and committed to evolving Beacon.”

Currently Facebook requires members to opt-out each time an affiliate wants to broadcast their purchases or activity, and some people (such as the following student at our alma mater, go Blue Demons) told BusinessWeek they either weren’t informed or completely missed the “opt-out.”

Kim Garvey, a 21-year-old junior at Chicago’s DePaul University, says she found out about Beacon after friends were alerted to a restaurant review she posted on Yelp. “I didn’t see the little thing that popped up, and I didn’t mean to tell everyone,” Garvey says.”For me, that was sort of uncomfortable.” She adds that she was surprised Facebook “is willing to invade people’s privacy.”

Well, that’s awkward.

Facebook May Revamp Beacon [BusinessWeek]
(Photo:Photo composite–Austin Cornelio)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Parting says:

    Facebook is the opposite of privacy anyway….

  2. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Please. Facebook is a fad.

  3. louisb3 says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: Just like that Internet thing.

    (Okay, so Facebook in particular may last only a few more years, but social network sites in general are likely to stick around and evolve few quite a while.)

  4. Framling says:

    @louisb3: Like they’ve been doing ever since sixdegrees?

  5. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @chouchou: well obviously, the fact that you are blogging your experiences on the internet is throwing away your privacy, I mean why leave a trail about your life for free, most politicians do it for a decent fee and make people pay for it.

  6. UpsetPanda says:

    Okay, I have yet to figure out exactly how this works….if it’s an application, you don’t put the app on your facebook page, you’re safe. But if you mention this or mention that in your blog or whatever, they can use that and alert people who have it?

  7. elmyc says:

    It happened to me 2 days ago when I checked out at zappos.com, and I just didn’t care for it to tell my friends/network that I found a great deal at zappos, and BTW you can’t miss the opt out because it comes up as soon as you log-in at the top and if you don’t say yes it goes away. (I’m not saying this is a nice feature, I’m just saying it is not as evil)

  8. Even more obnoxious is the news from Cnet that Facebook had apparently originally offered a full “opt-out” choice, but removed it prior to Beacon’s launch, I assume at the request of advertisers.


    This along with the news a few weeks ago that Facebook’s employees were reading private pages and messing with them without repercussion has pretty much ruined Facebook for me. There’s no real value in it anyway. I can do without it.

  9. UpsetPanda says:

    Okay, here’s another question…I see absolutely nothinn gup top that asks me to opt out or in. I’ve been a member since…2004? 2005? So where the heck is this thing and how do I get rid of it?!

  10. UpsetPanda says:

    Gosh I wish we could edit comments like on /. I was looking away while I was typing “nothing up top”…

  11. Sam says:

    All I can say is, they better. Before Beacon, Facebook involved no breach of privacy. All the people on this and other blogs I’ve seen complaining about it apparently do not understand that you are in control of who can view your profile, and you are in control of what appears on your profile. At least, the latter applied before Beacon. Now, outside parties can put stuff on your profile. (While users are supposedly given the choice of allowing Beacon, many have complained of not being presented with the option.)

    Using Facebook is not a surrendering of your privacy. Beacon takes it away.

  12. Parting says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: There is a difference between blogging and creating a full scale presentation of your life, ”friends” (complete with pictures), schedule and your shopping habits for everyone to see.

    It’s very creepy, once you realize how many weirdos check your profile. People, who you would avoid as fire in real life.

    Facebook is not a bad idea, but unless it will permit limiting aspects of what you want expose to the world, I’m against it. Too many bad experiences
    (complete with friend’s personal stalker acquired on the website) around me to trust Facebook, yet.

  13. Mr. Gunn says:

    You forgot the quotes around “friends”.

  14. cannedpizza says:

    It’s not an app, it’s built right into Facebook, and there’s no way to just opt out completely. You can only opt out of individual sites when they try to send things to your Facebook profile. It’s really creepy and disappointing. I liked Facebook well enough until Beacon came around.

  15. kimsama says:

    Does this affect you when you use your facebook-signed-up-with email to purchase things/open an account? I’m on Yelp with my facebook notification email, and that’s the only site that bugs me with the pop-up. Zappo’s and Amazon haven’t, but I don’t use the email address facebook has for those accounts.

    Just wondering…that would make it easier to avoid.

  16. Parting says:

    @Mr. Gunn: On Facebook, for most people only 10% of real friends are in the user profile. The rest, 90%, are people that you vaguely know(a friend of a friend’s second ex sister, guy you met in a bar for 2 min, etc.)

    If everyone knows your schedule, your shopping habits and where you live??? There should be different options to limit information appearing on Facebook. For users, experience would get more pleasant and private. And more people would join.

  17. mcrbpc says:

    there are different options. You can set certain “friends” to only see a limited version of your profile while close friends are allowed to see all of it.

  18. jeff303 says:

    @chouchou: Well I guess you haven’t tried Facebook lately because it lets you configure privacy settings in a very fine-grained way. You can limit what people/networks are allowed to see what bits of profile info, mini-feed, etc. There is also the notion of a “limited profile” that you can grant people.

    Not saying Facebook has perfect privacy settings by any means but you don’t give them enough credit.

  19. amt88 says:

    Yes, this happened to me too, I purchases a piece of lingerie that the site broadcasted to my network. Note I don’t blog about my life, but belong to the site as a means of networking with my grad school classmates. Needless to say, I am one unsatisfied customer. Luckily, I caught it after only a few minutes, so hopefully it did not get seen by my friends.

  20. pestie says:

    I just caved to social pressure and joined Facebook last night. One of the first things I did was look into this “beacon” thing and figure out how to block it. So, if you want to do the same, here’s how:

    1. Use Firefox.
    2. Use the Adblock Plus Firefox extension.
    3. Add this rule to the list of filters:

    There are other ways to do it, but this is one of the easiest.

  21. Mr. Gunn says:

    chouchou: That was kinda my point.