When news hit last week that Facebook was publishing user information gathered from third party sites (like ecommerce purchases) and publishing in the news feed, my assumption was it would quickly blow over. Facebook is continuously pushing the envelope with new features, and there always seems to be short term backlash when they try something new.
But it isn’t clear that the new Beacon controversy is going to blow over so easily. First, MoveOn.org has made this their Cause Du Jour and seems hell bent on forcing Facebook to change its policies. Rumors surfaced that Facebook was censoring search results that included the MoveOn.org privacy group (flatly denied, privately, by Facebook).
Today, more news. MoveOn has reviewed early screen shots that we published suggesting that Beacon would include broad opt-out provisions by users. Those features never made it to the production release. MoveOn issued a press release noting the discrepancy and demanding that Facebook implement the original plan.
CNET picked up the story and ran with it. In an update, Facebook commented:
Facebook is listening to feedback from its users and committed to evolving Beacon so users have even more control over the actions shared from participating sites with their friends on Facebook…Facebook already has made changes to ensure that no information is shared unless a user receives notifications both on a participating website and on Facebook.
Notifications won’t be enough for MoveOn and many users who are seriously pissed off at Facebook right now. Facebook’s best move is to make the new Beacon service opt-in only. But that reduces the value of the service to third parties who supply the information to Facebook, and get free links in return.
This story clearly isn’t over.