Feeds

Facebook 'to drop' creeptech ad system

Beacon extinguished

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.