Breaking: Facebook Updates Beacon

By Nick O'Neill Comment

Facebook has just announced that they will be updating their Beacon system. Stories will no longer be published “without a user proactively consenting.” According to Facebook here is how the Beacon changes work:

Stories about actions users take on external websites will continue to be presented to users at the top of their News Feed the next time they return to Facebook. These stories will now always be expanded on their home page so they can see and read them clearly.

Users must click on “OK” in a new initial notification on their Facebook home page before the first Beacon story is published to their friends from each participating site. We recognize that users need to clearly understand Beacon before they first have a story published, and we will continue to refine this approach to give users choice.

If a user does nothing with the initial notification on Facebook, it will hide after some duration without a story being published. When a user takes a future action on a Beacon site, it will reappear and display all the potential stories along with the opportunity to click “OK” to publish or click “remove” to not publish.

Users will have clear options in ongoing notifications to either delete or publish. No stories will be published if users navigate away from their home page. If they delay in making this decision, the notification will hide and they can make a decision at a later time.

Clicking the “Help” link next to the story will take users to a full tutorial that explains exactly how Beacon works, with screenshots showing each step in the process.

Facebook has also stated that they are making the notifications more visible. The fact that stories are no longer published by default is a great first step. For me this is almost the same as a global opt-out since your friends won’t automatically be notified. That means Facebook won’t be ruining Christmas (or Chanukah or any other holidays) for anybody. The main issue is that still remains is that they store your shopping data even if they don’t notify your friends.

This information is extremely valuable for helping them advertise to you. What really strikes me as odd is that other e-commerce providers would agree to this system since this information is extremely valuable to them. Ultimately, there is a lot of overall value gained for advertisers by this new system but it definitely has tested the limits of user privacy. Do you think these new changes are sufficient?

Update
To view more about Facebook Beacon, check out the Facebook Beacon FAQ over on the Facebook site.

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