Facebook to end Beacon tracking tool in settlement

Sep 21, 2009
Facebook logo

(AP) -- Facebook is shutting down its much-maligned Beacon marketing program, launched nearly two years ago amid fanfare only to generate a storm of privacy complaints over tracking of user activities at partner Web sites.

Facebook agreed to end Beacon and create a foundation to promote online privacy, safety and security as part of a $9.5 million settlement in a lawsuit over the program. A federal judge in San Jose, Calif., still must approve the terms.

thought the Beacon marketing program would help users keep their friends better informed about their interests while also serving as "trusted referrals" that would help drive more sales to the participating sites. Sprinkled in with status updates and photos were alerts on what items their friends had bought or reviewed.

But users complained that friends could learn of holiday gifts they had bought at the online retailer Overstock or learn of the mindless movies for which they had purchased tickets through Fandango.

Users were able to decline tracking on a site-by-site basis, but not systemwide - at least not initially. Many users simply didn't notice a small warning that appeared on a corner of their Web browsers; the box disappeared after about 20 seconds, after which consent was assumed.

After an uproar, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook ultimately let users turn Beacon off, and CEO publicly apologized for it.

The service never really caught on, though, and Facebook said late Friday it agreed to end it as part of the proposed settlement.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2008 on behalf of 19 users against Facebook, as well as Blockbuster Inc., Fandango, Overstock.com Inc. and other companies that used Beacon. It claimed the defendants disclosed users' personal information for advertising purposes, without their consent.

"We learned a great deal from the Beacon experience," Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in a statement. "For one, it was underscored how critical it is to provide extensive user control over how information is shared. We also learned how to effectively communicate changes that we make to the user experience."

While Beacon was unsuccessful, out of the experience grew Facebook Connect, which lets the online hangout's 300-million-plus users access other sites using their Facebook log-ins and share with Facebook information on activities elsewhere.

Unlike Beacon, however, Facebook Connect gives users, rather than Facebook and advertisers, control over the information they share.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Social networking aggregator sues Facebook

Jul 10, 2009

(AP) -- In a counter-punch to the world's biggest online hangout, a small Web company called Power.com has sued Facebook, saying it doesn't follow its own policy of giving users control over their content.

Facebook says it passed key financial milestone

Sep 15, 2009

(AP) -- Facebook Inc. said Tuesday it achieved an important financial milestone, bringing in more money than it spent in the last quarter. The social networking site previously had said it didn't expect to ...

Facebook plans to simplify privacy settings

Jul 01, 2009

(AP) -- Facebook is overhauling its privacy controls over the next several weeks in an attempt to simplify its users' ability to control who sees the information they share on the site.

Recommended for you

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

8 hours ago

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

22 hours ago

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

Aug 22, 2014

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

Aug 21, 2014

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

User comments : 0