Feeds

I'm in privacy trouble ... bitch

On Facebook's Beacon fiasco

High performance access to file storage

Three weeks ago, Facebook unveiled a three prong strategy to monetize its active base of 50m users. (See I'm a walking billboard ... bitch.) It hasn't taken long for one those prongs to go prang.

As we reported earlier today, the privacy-busting referral scheme called Beacon is to be modified. If you buy something elsewhere on the web, this information is piped back into your Facebook profile, so your social network can see what you've just bought.

Facebook already offered something similar, but with an opt-in model. This opted everyone in by default. People don't mind telling friends they've gone to see Led Zepp - they don't necessarily want them to see they've just bought a blow-up doll.

Who would have guessed?

It's damaged Facebook and participating advertisers far more than anyone has realized. Facebook's notoriously weaselly approach to privacy was well in evident, even as it begun to roll out the "fix".

"Facebook already has made changes to ensure that no information is shared unless a user receives notifications ... " the company explained. Note, not "permissions", but "notifications".

In the reader comments, Darren Coleman asks,

"I can't really see how Facebook can make any money outside of the traditional model of invasive banner ads and Adwords. As sites go it's a victim of its own success - you can't monetise the userbase because they'd sooner just jump ship to the next Web 2.0 darling, and if you're seen to be doing anything that could be construed as towing the corporate line (e.g. ads, tracking, etc) then suddenly you're no longer the plucky young upstart website - you're the corporate mouthpiece bought and paid for by the kind of people that talk earnestly about monetisation, incentivising, growing brands, etc. Urgh."

"It's the ultimate self-defeating paradigm."

Good point - is that it, then?

Well, not quite, because there are three ways of making money here, and Facebook is trying them all.

Mark "I'm the CEO ... bitch" Zuckenberg called the referral program the "holy grail" of advertising when he announced it, and it remains a pipe dream.

The other two programs are safer bets: giving advertisers even more slightly accurate demographic information is sure to be welcomed: advertisers currently get nothing at all.

And getting a cut of transactions through Facebook remains an obvious strategy. As I pointed out at the time, however, this may be smaller than many people suppose. A store that shares the transaction revenue with Facebook is only going to be prepared to do so as long as it considers Facebook a part of that transaction. Is Amazon going to be prepared to pay every referrer for a transaction? You can bet not.

Facebook's Beacon experience simply demonstrates that it's been too clever by half: thinking it can do "permission marketing" without your permission.

And the company's impatience and greed also explain why it faces a long drawn out battle with regulators in Europe. Like a Roach Motel, you can join Facebook - but you'll never leave. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.