Beacon Changes Coming Soon? Facebook Responds

On Monday I argued that Facebook would soon change Beacon to provide a global opt-out feature. According to Business Week, “Executives of the three-year-old company were in deep talks over proposed changes late into the afternoon on Nov. 28, according to a person familiar with the matter. At issue is the Beacon program, which alerts members’ Facebook ‘friends’ to purchases and other activities on third-party Web sites.”

Following the rumored discussions last night, Paul Janzer of Facebook, posted on the MoveOn.org Facebook group that is petitioning against Facebook Beacon privacy violations:

Thanks for your feedback about Facebook Beacon, it has definitely helped us make some changes to the product that we hope will provide you with a better experience on Facebook. Beacon was designed to help you share all the interesting things that you are doing outside of Facebook with your friends. Just like you have full control over your information on Facebook, you decide whether or not you want Beacon stories to be published and from which site.

Your feedback has made it clear that Beacon can be kind of confusing. To fix this, we are clarifying the way we inform you about a Beacon story before you decide whether or not you’d like to publish it on Facebook. We’re also working on making the sites that offer Beacon more visible to you, both on Facebook and through visual cues, so you can determine which specific sites you can publish stories from. Also, we’re providing more information on how Beacon works through a new tutorial and expanded help pages.

We’re sorry if we spoiled some of your holiday gift-giving plans. We are really trying to provide you with new meaningful ways, like Beacon, to help you connect and share information with your friends. Thanks for taking the time to express your opinions about our products. Please keep the feedback coming as we continuously work to improve your Facebook experience.

The response by Janzer fails to mention anything regarding a global opt-out feature that many have been calling for. While Facebook may argue that users have agreed to the Beacon service by becoming members of Facebook, opting-in users by default is not only controversial but it’s wrong. It sounds as though Facebook will be changing the design of the Beacon alerts so that they are more obvious. I think this is a great first step but Facebook needs to suck it up and add the global opt-out feature. What do you think about Janzer’s comments?