Beacon advertising technology is a controversial service with Facebook. It is there to tell friends and businesses about the shopping habits of Facebook users. The trouble started when Facebook users started seeing Beacon as an intrusion in online privacy and started a campaign to gather support against this service. The petition was signed by more than 50,000 Facebook fans. This petition demanded Facebook team to abandon or alter this technology. Facebook, having realized the gravity of situation, posted an apology via a letter published on its website.
The Beacon advertising technology was launched in first week of November with 44 partner sites including giants like Coca-Cola (KO), Sony Pictures (SNE) and Verizon (VZ). The list does not end here, Kongregate, LiveJournal, NYTimes (NYT), Sony Online, Blockbuster (BBI), Bluefly.com, STA Travel, The Knot, TripAdvisor, Travel Ticker, TypePad, viagogo, Vox, Yelp, WeddingChannel.com and Zappos.com are few affiliates to name. This Blogger and industry commentator Om Malik of gigaom.com was one of the firsts who challenged this technology by terming it a potential privacy hairball and latter this small spark turned out to be a wild fire in form of this petition forcing Facebook to step back.
The Activist site MoveOn was at the forefront of protests against Beacon and set up the petition to gather signatures on 20 November and list of signatories went high enough to make Facebook listen to the demands of its users. Spokesman for MoveOn, Adam Green considers it a success and marks it as the ability of internet users to band together to make a difference.
The apology letter by Team Facebook says, “We’re sorry if we spoiled some of your holiday gift-giving plans.” Further, “We are really trying to provide you with new meaningful ways, like Beacon, to help you connect and share information with your friends”.
It seems appears a happy ending but Om Malik still feels concerned and asks the users to completely opt-out of this program otherwise Facebook will still collect data from partner sites. To Anne Zelenka, this struggle to protect online privacy does not end here, she advocates further steps to gain ability of opting out of sharing any information outside of Facebook as well.
At the moment, it is reported that two rights groups, the