Facebook’s Beacon now under attack from advertisers

December 1, 2007

Facebook's Beacon now under attack from advertisers Facebook has been taking a beating from it’s users and privacy advocates over their new Beacon advertising service.  Now there’s a new front in the war, and this one could be the worst one yet: The advertisers.

Facebook just can’t catch a break when it comes to Beacon, their social advertising system: New York state is looking in to the legalities of the system, MoveOn.org has privacy concerns, and even in the wake of users telling them they don’t like it, they have stuck by their guns.  The newest attack on the system is coming from the advertising partners, and their words are some of the harshest yet.

According to a blog entry on the New York Times by Louise Story, advertisers were led to believe Beacon would be an “opt-in” system as opposed to an “opt-out”.  Ms. Story even asked Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, this question at the Beacon announcement presentation on November 6th.

I asked why he thought lots of users would want to have information about their purchases sent to their Facebook friends through the company’s new system called Beacon.

He made it clear that users would be allowed to choose whether to participate, and he implied that the choice would be explicit, or opt-in.

In a later clarification by Matt Hicks, a spokesperson for Facebook, stated that the theory had been that if a user didn’t explicitly say no, they meant yes.

Let’s let that thought process gestate for a little while, shall we?

In the meantime, Coca-Cola is currently not using Beacon, though they were supposed to be one of the “Landmark Partners” in the system.  The reason is that Carol Kruse, vice president of Coca-Cola’s global interactive marketing division, told Ms. Story that Coke was taking a “wait and see” approach to the system.  They, like pretty much everyone else, thought the system would be opt-in.  They are currently waiting to gauge user reaction to the system before adding it to their marketing.

It is becoming fairly clear that Facebook did not think this system through.  Sure, you can shrug off some online petitions by users, shake your head at the privacy groups, but when Fortune 500 companies start questioning the way you lured them in, it’s time to rethink your strategies.

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