The Facebook Beacon controversy may not be making headlines any more, but the privacy concerns it raised still linger. According to this post about MyDataIsMyData, an upcoming privacy-monitoring service sponsored by classifieds site Flugpo, Beacon may still monitor traffic and personal data, even if a user has opted-out of the system. In response, MyDataIsMyData is creating a plugin for Internet Explorer that enables users to eliminate any traces of Beacon from their system.
Facebook Beacon tracks usage information by monitoring cookies on a client’s computer. As users browse various participating websites, such as Blockbuster and eBay, their activities are relayed back to Facebook, where it can be shared with friends. Many users find such notifications to be intrusive, and much of the original controversy stemmed from the automatic inclusion of all users in the system.
The MyDataIsMyData plug-in notifies users via their browser toolbar when Facebook or one of Beacon’s participating affiliates creates or accesses these cookies. The plug-in can automatically delete these cookies at regular intervals, and also allows for users to individually select which (if any) sites will still function with Beacon. Finally, the toolbar will feature a constantly-updated list of sites that participate in Beacon, allowing users to boycott them, should they choose to do so. MyDataIsMyData will soon be available for Internet Exporer, and plans to expand to offer functionality for both Firefox and Macintosh-based browsers.
It should be noted that while the plugin offers some value in terms of a sense of security, it is fairly easy to monitor cookies with a number of extensions using the Firefox browser. Furthermore, by installing the free toolbar, the users will be placing their trust in MyDataIsMyData—the same type of users who presumably would be put off by installing any sort of monitoring software on their computers.