Facebook shuts down Beacon in light of lawsuit

By Justin Mann on September 21, 2009, 7:24 PM
The long road Facebook has walked with Beacon is finally coming to an end. The poorly-launched, controversial ad service was fraught with peril when it was first introduced in late 2007, resulting in a lot of negative PR for the company. They attempted to salvage the botched operation by offering Facebook subscribers a way to disable the service, but that wasn't enough.

A while back, Facebook was met with a lawsuit that demanded action. The company reacted by making some policy changes and crafting a replacement system. Now, a year-plus after the filing, Facebook has finally announced that Beacon will be put out of its misery as part of a settlement agreement. This is on top of hefty monetary "donations" Facebook is offering to privacy advocate groups. Assuming all goes well for Facebook, this will be the end of Beacon and the long legal campaign against it.

Beacon will go down in history as an example of how good intentions can ruin your reputation. Facebook's biggest error was making the service opt-out instead of opt-in, which caught many people by surprise. The fact it pulled information from third party sites complicated matters, and was a definite mistake from a privacy standpoint.

User Comments: 5

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Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I hate to be a grammar troll, but the first line in the 2nd paragraph has a typo in it. "About while back, Facebook..." should read "A while back, Facebook..."

Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

Haha, yes Wendig0, you are absolutely right. I made an error while editing. I actually intended it to read "A while back" -- my hands seem to type whatever they want. Thanks for pointing it out, I'll go fix it.

Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

"Beacon will go down in history as an example of how good intentions can ruin your reputation" Must disagree there, I don't think the intentions were any other but finding a viable model to make Facebook profitable in the short term, and it fired back, badly.

Guest said:

You know what road is paved with good intentions?

TJGeezer said:

Tracking users to allow finer targeting of ads is one of the oldest controversies on the Web, going back to the early tracking cookies. Until companies figure out how to milk revenues from the Web cow without offending their users, they'll keep trying and the issue won't go away. If Facebook had been more open about it - maybe using a checkbox set to a default "okay" at signup - I wonder if it would have been less controversial. Probably. And I wonder how many users would have allowed it. I bet enough of them to make the program profitable. Full, open disclosure can make a huge difference to how people perceive intent.

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