Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Facebook shuts down Beacon marketing tool

As part of a settlement of a large class-action lawsuit in California, Facebook has agreed to completely shut down its "Beacon" feature, which connects users' activites outside of Facebook to the users' profiles. See: Facebook shuts down Beacon marketing tool Sync.

Beacon was one of many high-profile privacy missteps taken by Facebook over its relatively short history. I've always thought that Facebook is a bit of a game-changer and has had to blaze its own trail through uncharted territory. While mistakes happen, it has been remarkable that Facebook has not been more open to its users by giving advance warning about significant changes and the simple use of "opt in" for features that are inherently intrusive.

This underscores the theory that privacy is, in large measure, about meeting users' expectations. If users are surprised by the use of their information, they get upset. If you tell users how you propose to use their information and give them control over that, they're generally fine with it. It's just that simple.

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