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.
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.
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
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
quote: I'm seriously considering killing off my profile (though I'm sure they'll retain the data).