Feeds

Facebook 'to drop' creeptech ad system

Beacon extinguished

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Facebook looks set to scale back its advertising ambitions after one of a suite of new features aimed at milking cash from user data was slammed as creepy.

The system, known as "Beacon", was only launched on 7 November. It's designed to follow users who click on third party ads inside the social network to outside seller sites. It then reports what they have bought back to their friends in the hope it will be seen as a "trusted recommendation".

Beacon currently has an obscure opt-out, and only on a case-by-case basis. BusinessWeek now reports that this will be changed to an across-the-board opt-in and announced as soon as later today, effectively killing off the wheeze.

Last week, US civic activist group MoveOn scored an easy PR win by pointing out that Beacon could easily cause embarrassment for people buying personal items or gifts. The related Facebook group (membership required) has more than 47,000 members.

Facebook PR responded that "[purchasing] information is shared with a small selection of a user's trusted network of friends, not publicly on the web or with all Facebook users".

It's a well known phenomenon that social networks encourage users to be "friends" with people they wouldn't have anything to do with in meatspace, however. See here (third clip) for audio from our recent interview with cultural commentator Adam Curtis on the rebirth of "the public self" - a Victorian concept.

Of course, the decidedly lukewarm reaction Beacon has received from marketeers may have played an equal part in the forthcoming U-turn.

Facebook has a history of pushing its users' tolerance to privacy-busting features. In 2006 it relented in an outcry that its newsfeed, which tells "friends" about your activities on the network, was a stalker's dream. Extensive customisation and blocking options were introduced as a result.

It's part of the social networking cheerleaders' instruction manual to claim that their websites are changing attitudes to privacy and ushering in a new world of openness.

It's a line we've heard trotted out recently from Bebo's Joanne Shields and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, who described privacy as an "old man's concern" in Oxford earlier this month.

Facebook's latest apparent climbdown suggests the world isn't quite ready for their brand of privacy-free marketing, however. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
First in line to order a Nexus 6? AT&T has a BRICK for you
Black Screen of Death plagues early Google-mobe batch
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.