Facebook's Beacon Shines Annoying Light on Consumer Purchases

Posted on November 28, 2007

Facebook's supposedly innovative new advertising feature called Beacon is quickly turning into a disaster for the popular social network. The feature annoys users and ruins the holiday experience by broadcasting Facebook users' recent product purchases such as books, movies, apparel and other gifts. The federal government might be disturbingly interested in people's book purchases but consumers don't necessarily want information about the goods and services they have just purchased broadcasted for everyone to see. Another problem with Facebook's Beacon is that they made the service opt-out instead of opt-in. Facebook users are forced to turn the Beacon off at every single online retailer that is connected to Facebook Beacon. Facebook apparently fixed a "glitch" that made the opt-out switch nearly impossible to find but the problem remains because the problem is Beacon itself.

The Beacon problem is turning into a big PR disaster for Facebook. Moveon.org is speaking out against Facebook's Beacon. New articles are being written daily about how Facebook is ruining Christmas and Hanukkah.

That's not the kind of PR any kind of company wants especially this time of year. The negative publicity is mounting so quickly that Facebook may soon be forced to admit failure and turn off the Beacon - darkening its unwanted bright spotlight on consumer purchases. This is the information age and a vast wealth of information is available but not every information source should be broadcasted. Would you want a public stream of your American Express purchases? Your tax returns? Your doctor visits? Social media does not have to be synonymous with "no privacy" - some information streams should not be turned on. Facebook should at the very least make it opt-in - check this box to annoy your Facebook friends with information about all of your online purchases.

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