Facebook Alters Shopping Stalker

The New York Times says that Facebook will be making a slight change to “Beacon” the feature that tracks users purchases throughout the web and broadcasts them to their friends.

Late yesterday the company made an important change, saying that it would not send messages about users’ Internet activities without getting explicit approval each time.

MoveOn.org Civic Action, the political group that set up the online petition, said the move was a positive one.

“Before, if you ignored their warning, they assumed they had your permission” to share information, said Adam Green, a spokesman for the group. “If Facebook were to implement a policy whereby no private purchases on other Web sites were displayed publicly on Facebook without a user’s explicit permission, that would be a step in the right direction.”

Facebook did confirm that they would not allow users to universally opt-out of all information sharing, and are convinced that users will come to love the “Beacon” just as they’ve come to love the “News Feed.” Overstock.com has already dropped the “Beacon” feature until it becomes totally opt-in, says the NYT.

Facebook Retreats on Online Tracking [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. FLConsumer says:

    I wonder which purchases by MoveOn.org members purchased which they didn’t want other people to know about…

  2. kimsama says:

    Um, I kinda hate the news feed. Especially since its control panel (the change notifications) is sort of …diffuse.

    Definitely this makes me a little sad — the facebook honeymoon is over!

  3. UpsetPanda says:

    I haven’t had anything posted on my feed or profile or whatever…maybe I’m not shopping at the places they’ve got a partnership with…

  4. benko29 says:

    why the hell would anyone want to announce to everyone on facebook what they’re buying? it’s one thing for everyone to see you left the group “I only added you on facebook to see what you look like now,” or see your late night drunken wall posts on your ex-girlfriend’s profile, but people’s purchases is a bit much.

    on the other hand, one could argue “sour grapes” because hey, you voluntarily signed up for facebook, and it was probably buried somewhere in those terms of service you didn’t read but immediately accepted.

  5. Quellman says:

    If using firefox theres a script you can put in it that blocks beacon. No need to worry.

  6. new and troubling questions says:

    @Quellman: would that be through Greasemonkey? just curious

  7. kimsama says:

    @Quellman: Yes, more info, please! I’d hit it.

  8. chuloallen says:
  9. chuloallen says:

    darn it, cant edit.. lol.. that link is for the BlockSite Firefox add-on to block Facebook Beacon.

  10. Quellman says:


    is where I had found it off of Digg.com

  11. Quellman says:

    I am corrected to mention that there is support for other browsers but is not tested by the author.

  12. louisb3 says:

    Aren’t the Beacon-blocking plugins a moot point now that it’s opt-in?

  13. azntg says:

    @louisb3: Facebook Beacons are NOT opt-in, so those blocking plugins still have their purpose. Devilishly nice of Facebook to not allow universal opt out.

    Who are they kidding? I hate the news feed sh*t. Even if I hide them, sometimes they pop up again by themselves. As sad and unlikely as it sounds, the news feed was part of several reasons that I stopped seeing a special person in my life. Frankly, I wish the news feed sh*t wasn’t there in the first place. I don’t want to announce to the world that I’ve “added” a new friend or “left” a group or be an unpaid endorser (or even paid endorser for some things)nor do I want to know what the hell you’re doing when I’m not seeing you in person.

    And I don’t think most of us are fond of the idea that they’re tracking our moves on the internet and profitting handsomely off it.

    Ah facebook, when it starts to rain, it’ll pour. In the meantime, I will log off after checking my intentionally sparse profile and clear the cookies. Suck that!

  14. pestie says:

    Here’s a re-post of what I posted before, for those of you using Adblock Plus:

    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.

  15. Parting says:

    Great :)

  16. Parting says:

    Still ”beacon” is why I don’t use it anymore.

  17. snowmentality says:

    Facebook Beacon was the precipitating factor in getting me to ditch Facebook. It was getting more and more Myspacey and annoying, and Beacon was just the last straw. It’s great that it’s no longer automatically published, but it’s not convincing me to come back. I don’t want to be a free billboard.

    Of course, even deleting my account was a huge pain. You have to manually delete each item from your profile, friends, groups, notes, wall, and newsfeeds. Then you deactivate. Then you have to email Facebook and request permanent deletion. That whole process just cemented my decision to leave.