I’ve been reading a bunch of posts on the Facebook Beacon launch. Most of them either say it will end up being a privacy nightmare, highly annoying, or extremely useful. I hadn’t read anything that I felt was both personal and balanced. Well, I really enjoyed Charlene Li’s piece on her recent experiences encountering Facebook Beacon in the wild via Overstock. If you want to read the whole thing, you can read it here: Groundswell (Incorporating Charlene Li’s Blog): Close encounter with Facebook Beacon.
I do think that the implications for privacy abuse or inadvertent disclosure are much higher here than they are for the first-generation Newsfeed. At least with the Newsfeed launch only you could shoot yourself in the foot by deliberate action. Now, it’s much easier to insert one’s foot in one’s mouth.
Contrary to what some of the commenters in Charlene’s post said, I don’t think this is something you can simply solve with a TOS or a set of guidelines. The opportunity and potential gains from abuse are going to be too attractive for some unscrupulous people to pass up.
One solution would be to just redirect everyone to a Facebook-hosted page to opt-in to Beacon at the end of some activity / transaction that is Beacon enabled. That would give users an easy way to control their privacy and ensure a consistent user experience. Relying on partners to adhere to the TOS and do the right things strikes me as a harder way to go unless you are going to routinely audit them all for compliance.
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