Beacon: Facebook spied its users

The Kassandra Project

 

The giant of social networking Facebook had a hidden politics about privacy of its users: website they visited, searches they made, has been recorded and saved for monitoring pourposes. Om Malik reported on November:

Mark Zuckerberg & Co. stood up in front of the advertising community in New York today and unveiled Facebook Ads, an ad system that allows companies to use the Facebook social graph and to develop highly targeted ads. Large brands such as Coca-Cola (KO), Sony Pictures (SNE) and Verizon (VZ) have signed on for this effort. Part of the engine powering this new ad system is called Beacon, which takes data from 44 web destinations and mashes it up with Facebook’s internal information to help build more focused advertising messages.

While it seems to be a clever idea, a quick review reveals that Beacon might turn out to be a privacy hairball for the company.

The 44 sites that have partnered with Facebook include everyone from Kongregate, LiveJournal, NYTimes (NYT), Sony Online, Blockbuster (BBI), Bluefly.com, STA Travel, The Knot, TripAdvisor, Travel Ticker, TypePad, viagogo, Vox, Yelp, WeddingChannel.com and Zappos.com.These partner sites put a little a piece of Facebook javascript on their web site and certain information, cleverly (and innocuously) labeled as a user alert, is sent to Facebook. For instance, Fandago users can publish information about the movies they saw. It all seems like a clever idea because it lets Facebook triangulate your likes and dislikes even more, and deliver more focused ads.

Where did these private informations go? Obviously towards corporations to monitor us in order to give us what we think we need. Computerworld wrote:

Facebook’s controversial Beacon ad system tracks the activities of its users even if they are logged off from the social-networking site and have previously declined the option of having their activities on specific external sites broadcast to their Facebook friends, a company spokesman said via e-mail.

Although the spokesman said that Facebook deletes the data without using it, the admission will probably fan the flames of criticism of the service by privacy advocates.

The Facebook spokesman did not initially reply to a request for further explanation on how the Beacon action gets triggered if a user is logged off from Facebook, when the social-networking site’s ability to track its users’ activities should be inactive.

It’s also unclear whether Facebook plans to modify Beacon so it doesn’t track and report on the off-Facebook activities of logged-off users.

You can find more about this topic on the good article “Facebook and your privacy” by Zeldman.

You can block Beacon by foolowing the steps reported on wikiHow.

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