Facebook Roundup: Privacy, FTC, LivingSocial, Causes, AdNectar, Zoosk, Virtual Suicides Blocked and Bras

Causes App Now Runs the Facebook Charity Gift Shop – Facebook app Causes, which helps charities gain supporters on the service, now powers the Facebook Charity Gift Shop. The change made this week means users may send gifts to friends’ profiles and the proceeds will go to charity. For example, “Your purchase of a Healthy Baby Kit Gift will help the International Rescue Committee provide a baby delivery kit with a warm blanket for a child born in a crisis zone.” As of Friday, Causes had more than 23 million monthly active users.

Facebook Not #1 in Uptime, But #1 in Response – Facebook played second fiddle to Twitter’s uptime last week, and both got beaten by YouTube, according to AlertSite’s benchmarks from December 28, 2009 through January 3. Facebook had 97.22% availability, while Twitter clocked in at 97.97% and YouTube at 99.13%. However, Facebook beat everyone’s response time with 2.21 seconds.

Another Lawsuit Hits ConnectU Founders – Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the identical twins who alleged that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole their code and business plan, are being sued themselves by a former partner claiming the pair shut him out of their business.

Wayne Chang filed the suit December 21 in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts, naming defendants as the twins, their father Howard Winklevoss, business partner Divya Narendra and attorney Scott Mosko and his firm Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner.

For his troubles Chang is seeking a 15% stake in ConnectU, a 50% stake in the dissolve joint venture with the twins, i.e., part of their $65 million cash/stock from their case against Facebook.

FTC Didn’t Greenlight Facebook’s Privacy Policy – Federal Trade Commission Jon Leibowitz told The Washington Post this week that his agency is not “generally in the business of giving general advisory opinion in advance.” When it introduced major changes to its privacy features in early December, Facebook said that it had discussed its “privacy program” with the FTC and other regulators. The December changes prompted FTC complaints from a number of privacy organizations. Leibowitz now says that the complains are being reviewed and that online privacy is an FTC priority in the future. Facebook also clarified to The Post that the it didn’t specifically seek approval from the FTC for its December changes.

GOSO’s App for Auto Dealers Streams Inventory to Facebook – Social media marketer GOSO unveiled a new Facebook app this week that allows auto dealers to connect their inventory to their Facebook page. The  BMW of Minnetonka, Minnesota is the first dealership to use it. The app meshes inventory management with social media marketing, as well as allowing dealers to monitor buzz surrounding their products, according to GOSO.

AdNectar Reaches 2 Billion Virtual Goods – AdNectar, the Palo Alto-based word-of-mouth social network marketing service, announced this week that it reached a benchmark 2 billion virtual goods served from its platform and 10 million virtual goods have been sent between friends on social networks. The caveat is that this number is almost certainly a small fraction of the number of virtual goods served overall. AdNectar’s clients include Gillette, Nestle Toll House, Malibu Rum and Snapple/Dr. Pepper and often virtual goods for these companies spread virally; 1 million Malibu drinks sent in two weeks and more than a million Nestle cookies during a recent campaign. Engagement rates range from 2% to 6%, leading to a 16% rise in purchase intent for Nestle and a 9% increase in brand favorability for Malibu.

France Eyes Internet Ad Tax for Facebook, Google, Among Others – France, ever the culture lover, may be set to institute taxes on Internet advertising revenue for Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo!, according to a report commissioned by the culture ministry. Up to €20 million ($29 million USD) a year could be gleaned from the taxes to end the “endless enrichment without payback,” as one author, Jacques Toubon, wrote in the report. President Nicolas Sarkozy reported asked Budget Minister Eric Woerth to study the issue further. The tax would help finance artists and online cultural content.

Zoosk Signs onto TBG Facebook Advertising Tool – Zoosk, an online social dating community with more than 6 million monthly actives, signed on to use ONE Media Manager this week, an online display advertising campaign management system TBG developed to simplify and accelerate the social media advertising process.

Zoosk users can use Facebook Connect to combine their dating with social networking and now with ONE Media Manager Zoosk will be able to test and adapt different advertising strategies to different audiences. So far TBG has signed up 20 clients to the service and expects to double their business this year.

Bra Colors Take Over Facebook Status Updates – When women started posting random colors on their Facebook statuses — lavender, black, blue, etc. — many began wondering what the point was. A chain letter passed around between Facebook inboxes prompted women to post the colors of their bra on their statuses to raise awareness about breast cancer, although the success and the veracity of that campaign has been up for debate.

LivingSocial Scores $5 Million in December – LivingSocial closed a $5 million Series A-1 round on December 18, led by investors Grotech Ventures, Steve and Jean Case, as well as LivingSocial’s CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy. The additional funds, in conjunction with July 2008’s Series A round of $5 million, brings total funding to $10 million. Having grown a big base of users on Facebook, the company is set to continue expansion, particularly growing LivingSocial Deals group buying service.

Facebook Shuts Suicide Machine Down – Facebook shut down the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine this week, sending a cease-and-desist letter as it did previously with the similar service Seppukoo, and also shutting down access to Facebook from Suicide Machine’s servers. The cease-and-desist letter was similar to the one Seppukoo received, in that it alleged that the Suicide Machine was violating policy for accessing Facebook users’ information without appropriate permissions. So far the service claims to have unfriended more than 58,000 people on about 900 deactivated accounts.

Former Google Manager New CEO of SocialMedia.com – Former Google AdSense Executive/Director of North American Sales Operations Kurt Abrahamson was named CEO of SocialMedia.com this week. He also served as COO of Jupiter Communications and President of Jupiter Media Metrix from 1994 to 2003, helping build that company’s business from 12 people to an international organization with 520 employees around the world. The change signals that SocialMedia.com is moving away from its social ad network and focusing on becoming an ad platform business for social networks, previously raising $10 million in two rounds to this end.

FBI Adds Widgets, Quizzes to Profile – The Federal Bureau of Investigation updated its Facebook page this week, adding a video widget, quiz and updating the FBI Most Wanted iPhone app. The video widget allows users to embed the FBI’s videos in their pages and blogs, the quiz allows users to determine what FBI career would best suit them and the iPhone app features the FBI’s most wanted list, as well as news about breaking crime stories and a geo-locator for their nearest office.

Flixster Acquires Rotten Tomatoes – Flixster, Inc. turned its partnership with movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes into a business deal this week, when it acquired Rotten Tomatoes. Now, the two companies claim to be able to reach 30 million monthly moviegoers through their primary sites, Facebook (where Flixster has long had the leading movies app) and other social networks, and iPhone, Blackberry and Android apps. The combined service provides a database of movies, user and critic reviews, trailers, videos, editorial content, showtimes, theater maps and online ticketing. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Privacy Changes Leave Users Vulnerable to Marketers – Facebook’s new privacy policy has left its users potentially sharing more information about themselves than they likely realized, according to blogger Max Klein. He uploading a list of emails saved as a CSV file to Facebook, and found that you can match those email addresses with the publicly-available information provided by those users in their Facebook profiles.

[Leibowitz photo from FTC.gov]