Facebook Beacon is Serious Breach of Trust

Facebook recently introduced Facebook Beacon, a new technique for businesses and website operators to “enable your customers to share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends.”

Beacon can be installed by simply adding a few lines of code:

Simply determine which user actions you would like publish to Facebook (…) Facebook Beacon actions include purchasing a product, signing up for a service, adding an item to a wish list, and more. When a user performs the action, they will be alerted that your website is sending a story to their profile and have a chance to opt out.

And that’s the problem right there: Why would a user have to opt out of broadcasting his activities? If I like to share what I’m doing right now, there are many ways to do so, like Twitter. (On Twitter you’re even prompted to just answer the one question: “What are you doing?”)

I do not want any website to be able to send my activities to Facebook, or any other service. And I’m not alone here.

As Forrster’s Charelene Li points out, she got blindsided by Facebook Beacon while instead she should be in control of the information in her Facebook account. She rightfully criticizes the lack of transparency Beacon brings for users.

Nate Weiner shares her concerns and is also annoyed:

I want Facebook to sit still and let me check out how many of my friends enjoy the movie Sleepover and look at pictures of people I didn’t like in High School. I don’t need Facebook extrapolating data about me as I go about my business on the web.

(By the way, this is what should be called Digital Rights Management: User being able to manager their own digital lifes.)

While I understand that Facebook needs to find ever more effective ways of advertising, this one clearly sides with their ad customers (which is good), but against their users (which is bad, bad, bad). Google Adsense was a win/win. But Beacon…? In Kathy Sierra’s words: How is Facbeook helping us users kick ass?

Beacon is crossing the line to too much integration, if there is such a thing, or rather: It’s the wrong kind of integration. Folks will start feeling alienated and annoyed, and in my eyes Beacon will seriously backfire.

Luckily, this is Teh Interwebs, and someone already came up with a solution. Feel free to check out Nate Weiner’s Beacon Blocker.