Losing Facebook

November 20th, 2007at 10:19pm Posted by Eli

I really have no idea what these Facebook wankers are thinking:

On Saturday night I used Fandango to purchase the tickets for the movie Michael Clayton.

Then on Sunday, I looked at my Facebook feed and saw this:

“Ari bought Michael Clayton on Fandango. 5:25PM”

Having your privacy violated is a strange feeling. I don’t really care that people know I went to the movies on Saturday night. I would freely share this information with anyone. But that’s exactly the point. It should be up to me to share this information with others, not up to Facebook or Fandango to make that choice for me.

If the producers of Michael Clayton, without permission, decided to send post cards to the friends of everyone in the theater saying “XXXX saw Michael Clayton this weekend” there would be a massive outcry. This is essentially what Facebook (and Fandango) did as part of their new “Beacon” advertising program.

Under Beacon, third party sites pay FaceBook to use its members, without permission, as their corporate spokespeople. In this case it was an ad paid for by Fandango – hunting around over the past few days, I have also seen ads from Overstock.com and Kongregate.com.

Facebook claims the practice is fine because users can “opt-out.”

However David Weinberger points out in this case it’s the defaults that matter:

I find myself creeped out by this system because Facebook gets the defaults wrong in two very significant areas. When Blockbuster gives you the popup asking if you want to let your Facebook friends know about your rental, if you do not respond in fifteen seconds, the popup goes away … and a “yes” is sent to Facebook. Wow, is that not what should happen! Not responding far more likely indicates confusion or dismissal-through-inaction than someone thinking, “I’ll save myself the click.”

Further, we are not allowed to opt out of the system. At your Facebook profile, you can review a list of all the sites you’ve been to that have presented you with the Facebook spam-your-friends option, and you can opt out of the sites one at a time. But you cannot press a big red button that will take you out of the system entirely. So, if you’ve deselected Blockbuster and the Manly Sexual Inadequacy Clinic from the list, if you go to a new site that’s done the deal with Facebook, you’ll get the popup again there. We should be allowed to Just Say No, once and for all.

Why? Because privacy is not just about information. It’s all about the defaults.

For the record, when I purchased my tickets at Fandango, I never got the popup that David talked about and therefore never had the chance to opt-out.


From now on every Facebook user needs to assume ANY online action, whether it’s the sites they visit or the products they buy, will end up in their feed, completely public for the world to see.

They can’t even make the case that this benefits their users in any way. The idea that seeing what your Facebook friends have bought, or your Facebook friends seeing what you’ve bought, is any kind of a selling point, just won’t wash, which is why it’s opt-out instead of opt-in. It’s just a gruesome combination of advertising and privacy violation, and it can even be downright harmful and destructive.

Hopefully Facebook will pull their head out and realize that this was a very bad idea, and either make “Beacon” opt-in, or remove it completely. What’s wrong with wishlists? They have the same effect of indicating what users are interested in, and they have the added benefit of improving the gift-giving process.

Entry Filed under: Technology,Wankers

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