Facebook caves to pressure, MoveOn over Beacon

Despite criticism, Facebook will not end its Beacon service, but will rather make some changes to appease vocal critics such as the liberal activist group MoveOn.org.

MoveOn had led the criticism against the project, where e-commerce partners send certain aspects of customers activities on its sites to their Facebook profiles, calling it an invasion of privacy.

The group lobbied for the social network site to switch participation in the service to an "opt-in" policy, where the user would have to give their explicit permission to post any personal information. A Facebook group aimed at protesting the measure and started by MoveOn had amassed 52,000 members by Thursday evening.


While Facebook continues to defend the service as being nothing more than a harmless way for friends to know what you are interested in and purchasing, it is nevertheless changing how it works.

In a statement Thursday night, it said that users would first need to approve the sending of data to Facebook at the store itself before it is sent. If the notification is ignored, the request would be placed into a queue and shown the next time the user visits a participating retailer or the Facebook site, whichever comes first.

Data is still being captured, many may point out, however this time it is not being automatically shared. The company also offers an opt-out solution, however it is on a per site basis, with no global opt out option available as of yet.

Even so, MoveOn seems to be happy with Facebook's initial steps in addressing the privacy concerns of Beacon.

"If Facebook changes their policy so that no private purchases made on other websites are displayed publicly on Facebook without a user's explicit permission, that would be a huge step in the right direction -- and would say a lot about the ability of everyday Internet users to band together to make a difference," MoveOn civic communications director Adam Green said in a statement.

Analysts like Forrester's Charlene Li also applauded Facebook's move, although warned the company about doing something like this again in the future. "Given the concerns out there, I think Facebook has to do a lot more to regain the trust of not only its members but also of its partners," she said.

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