Facebook updates Beacon: now opt-in

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Facebook just tonight has modified the way Beacon works to make it now fully opt-in. Until now, Beacon-generated items appeared in your News Feed by default – now, nothing appears in your Mini Feed or News Feed unless you explicitly give Beacon the “OK.”

Here are the specific changes Facebook is making to Beacon:

  • 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.

These changes will keep users from accidentally publishing News Feed stories generated by their actions on other websites.

Just as with the launch of the News Feed, Facebook is responding quickly by giving users more privacy controls while pressing forward with their intention to build a powerful system that distributes news about you to your friends.  Will this change assuage the critics this time around? As always, the devil is in the details.