Facebook neuters Beacon, but I won’t be back

Facebook finally caved after weeks of protests and added a way for users to completely opt out of Beacon. Not that I care. This latest change is too little, too late, and there are no future assurances that Facebook won’t try something again in the future. I already quit Facebook and I’m not coming back.

If you haven’t kept up on this issue, let me explain. Beacon is a service that Facebook recently launched. It integrates with a bunch of online retailers, so anytime you buy something online it is automatically added to your Facebook feed. It was launched as an opt-out service, meaning it was automatically turned on for you unless you explicitly opted out. Needless to say, this ruined a lot of people’s days, including one husband’s who bought a ring for his wife for Christmas only to have it show up on his feed on Facebook and spoil the surprise when his wife read about it. There wasn’t even any way to opt out of Beacon globally; one had to opt out individually for each participating site, but only after something was added to one’s Beacon feed from that site. Needless to say, the original implementation was inexcusably terrible and privacy-infringing.

The new implementation is only slightly better. You are finally able to opt out of Beacon entirely, but you have to make that conscious choice to say you don’t want to do it. It should instead be opt-in, meaning you have to sign up to enable the Beacon service. But opting out of Beacon doesn’t even prevent Facebook from gathering all of the personal details about what you’re buying. It simply prevents them from displaying on the site. But rest assured, Facebook will be processing through all of that personal detail for profit.

Thus, my reasons for continuing to stay away from Facebook and urging everyone I know to do the same are twofold. One, this recent change isn’t a true opt out. It’s still enabled by default, and even when you do “opt out”, all of the privacy-infringing personal details are being recorded. All of the same bad things are going on behind the scenes. And secondly, the manner in which Facebook launched this new feature was atrocious. Time and time again they’ve added new privacy-infringing features (the previous one was the mini-feed) that many people don’t want, and made them enabled by default for all users. Simply put, I’ve lost all trust in the company, and I’m confident that they will continue with these shenanigans in the future. Why wouldn’t they? They stand to make a lot more profit by treating their customers as money plants to be farmed for profit than privacy-deserving human beings. The only way to avoid future impingements on your privacy is not to play the game. Quit Facebook now.

3 Responses to “Facebook neuters Beacon, but I won’t be back”

  1. T2A` Says:

    Is there a way to actually quit it for real or can you only “deactivate” your account? There isn’t even guarantee they delete your data…

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    As far as I know, you cannot actually delete your account (at least not through the web interface). Maybe if you called up and made a huge hassle they would actually delete it for you. And no, the data isn’t deleted. It’s even being actively updated, just in case you reactivate your account. The only thing that deactivation does is not allow other Facebook users to view any of your data.

    It’s a pretty messed up system. Had I know when I first signed up that it’s impossible to truly quit, I never would have started. The ability to actually quit should be encoded in a web services code of conduct.