Did Facebook Finally Get Beacon Right?

-Facebook and Privacy Icon-When Facebook launched their Instant Personalization service earlier this year at the company’s f8 developer event, many privacy advocates among other people lashed out, suggesting that the service was violating users’ privacy. Months later, the company’s instant personalization service remains and for the most part, no changes have been made. The similarities between “Instant Personalization” and the previous “Beacon” product are striking, yet as of today, “Instant Personalization” remains while “Beacon” remains a distant memory.

Do Users Care?

While users were not happy when their secret Christmas gifts started showing on their profiles as a result of Facebook Beacon, and users through a mild fit when automatically having their information show up within Yelp, it appears as though the hoopla has finally settled down. There are two possible conclusions to draw from the end of a backlash: the first is that users don’t have enough energy to protest, or secondly, they don’t really care.

New data from KPMG suggests that a decreasing number of online users care about their privacy. According to the report, “54 percent of consumers said they were very concerned about security in this year’s survey, compared to 65 percent in 2008.” More significant was the dramatic increase in the number of people who said they’d be willing to have their online activities tracked:

About half of the consumers said they would be willing to allow their (mobile or desk top) online usage and personal profile information to be tracked, if this would result in lower costs. This compares to one-third who were willing in 2008.

While Instant Personalization is not necessarily created for the purpose of tracking a user’s online activity, the service sure makes it feel as though your activity is being tracked. However the debate over whether or not the service should be “opt-in” has apparently disappeared.

Is Another Privacy Fiasco Inevitable?

Right now, Facebook’s instant personalization service is limited to only a few launch partner sites, but what happens when new sites begin getting included? While Facebook has not stated their intention to expand the instant personalization service beyond the initial test, what would be the point of launching a product without having an intention of supporting it in the future? We can only assume that initial tests have performed well considering that no changes have been made to the program as of late.

With no substantial backlash taking place, one has to wonder when Facebook will cross the user privacy line again. Perhaps they won’t. Clearly Facebook has learned from past mistakes and so far the backlash against the company has been relatively negligible. However for some reason, this new level of transparency generates this uncomfortable feeling deep down. Perhaps it’s just an evolution of communication, but I’m not so sure it’s what everyone wants.

Do you think another Facebook privacy fiasco is in the future for the company? Are you a supporter of the company’s Instant Personalization service on sites like Yelp and Pandora?