Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I LOVE the Internet! Facebook Privacy Petition

A few days ago, I joined a petition in Facebook called, "Facebook, stop invading my privacy!" So did around 60,000 other Facebook users.

Apparently, they were listening!

Today, the following article appeared in the Wall Street Journal:

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook Inc., apologized Wednesday for gaffes the company made in rolling out a controversial new advertising system, and said users would be able to disable the system entirely.

Facebook last week tweaked the ad program, known as Beacon, after more than 50,000 users raised privacy concerns about features that tell Facebook users what their friends are doing and buying on other Web sites.

Facebook made the changes last week without much public comment from its executives, but Mr. Zuckerberg weighed in Wednesday of Facebook's corporate blog.

"We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them," Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. "We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it."

Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook took too long to react to user complaints. He said Facebook is releasing a privacy control to allow users to turn off Beacon completely, and he hopes "this new privacy control addresses any remaining issues we've heard about from you."

The flurry of criticism for Beacon and Zuckerberg's mea culpa underscore the heightened scrutiny Facebook is under as its user base soars and as investment money pours in. The three-part advertising plan Facebook announced last month is an attempt to wring a financial bonanza from its devoted users, but it's increasingly clear Facebook's road to marketing riches will be bumpy.

Mr. Zuckerberg said he hopes the change to Beacon "addresses any remaining issues we've heard about from you." But Facebook's move wasn't enough for some critics.

"This is an attempt to hope the privacy mob will simply disappear into the digital ozone," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, which is advocating tighter regulatory oversight for marketing on social networks and other online properties.

Mr. Chester said Facebook shouldn't include its users in Beacon unless they expressly indicate they want to participate.

More broadly, Mr. Chester said he's worried about the amount of information people share on social networks - including names and addresses, political affiliation and other sensitive data - and the Web sites' increasing efforts to tie marketing to that information.

Both Facebook and MySpace have announced recently new marketing schemes that target ads based on the interests people indicate on their profiles. MySpace parent company News Corp. is slated to acquire Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

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