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Facebook shows that they (sometimes) know when to say sorry

The fallout of Facebook's Beacon adware campaign has left a troubling haze around the typically exciting social networking company.  Social networking has always had its critics, but Facebook is used to wild success and is a traditional analyst favorite.  Its status as a hot item was solidified when it received a significant recent investment and commitment from Microsoft.

Facebook rolled out the Beacon adware program which monitors users' shopping activities on advertising partners, early this month.  Criticism mounted swiftly as the software not only tracked users activities when logged out of Facebook, but also posted obnoxiously intrusive advertisements about what they had purchased in user's public news feeds.  These feeds would be displayed on user's friends pages.

Facebook finally agreed to make changes about its implementation of the adware, but refused to fully back down from it.  Facebook changed the feed connection so that users feed will only publicly announce purchase if users give it permission to.  Facebook still is supportive of the system, because it promises big money for the company, which can start to use it to sell targeted ads, a higher priced commodity than standard ads.

Now to top off the minor changes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is hoping a personal apology will help to soothe users hurt feelings.  Mr. Zuckerberg said in his Facebook blog, "We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it."

He reiterated that users can now disable the announcements of their purchases.  However, he did indicate that Facebook will continue to track users' off site shopping activity, though it promises to do so discretely and securely.

Facebook made just over $150 million USD last year in advertising, but is hoping to draw around $200 million USD in only a few short months by selling higher-priced targeted advertisements.  With this kind of financial incentive it is understandable why Facebook is loathe to entirely do away with the system, even if it comes at a bit of an expense to user privacy.

One of the most vocal critics of Facebook's user monitoring and privacy violations, Moveon.org, seemed happy with Facebook's response and Mr. Zuckerberg's commentary.  Spokesman Adam Green said, "Facebook's policy change is a big step in the right direction, and we hope it begins an industry-wide trend that puts the basic rights of Internet users ahead of the wish lists of corporate advertisers."

How exactly Facebook's struggles in pushing the adware on its users effect its bottom line are yet to be seen, but one of its advertising partners, Overstock.com, has already ditched the service.  Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg hopes his apology can help prevent more advertisers from jumping ship.



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RE: You only say sorry...
By NickWV on 12/6/2007 10:37:43 AM , Rating: 2
don't see how you could deny responsibility from that, the writing was pretty much on the wall. If they continued to leave it online and not let users disable it, they could expect a number of lawsuits.

that apology was a "I'm sorry, don't sue" apology.


RE: You only say sorry...
By Proteusza on 12/6/2007 11:08:01 AM , Rating: 3
I think the fact that he apologized means he carefully reviewed the legality of his actions and decided that this wouldnt constitute an admission of guilt.


"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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