MoveOn.org added a Facebook group petition page to protest Facebook's instant personalization tool. The Electronic Frontier Foundation put up a timeline showing the social network company's regression in privacy practices. The protests by the EFF and MoveOn.org come just days after U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Michael Bennet, Al Franken and Mark Begich sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the company to revisit instant personalization.
Facebook continues to take heat for its "instant personalization"
feature, which the company launched earlier this month
to enable the social
network to share users' profile data with third-party partner Websites.
To protest instant personalization, MoveOn.org has, in no small amount of
irony, added a Facebook group petition page with the header, "Facebook, respect my privacy!
" The Electronic
Frontier Foundation chimed in by putting up a timeline showing the social
network company's regression in privacy practices.
Instant personalization is the company's ambitious effort to break down the
barriers between normally walled off Websites by getting them to share user
information with Facebook and vice versa.
By getting many of its 400 million-plus users to share more information
about their personal preferences, their likes and dislikes between external
Websites and the social network, Facebook can better target advertising at a
time when social sites are looking to create the next Google AdWords, the
premier digital ad program.
To date, only Yelp, Pandora and Docs employ instant personalization, which
is in beta.
Here is how it
: As long as users are logged into Facebook, these sites can personalize
the users' experience using public Facebook information. When users visit an
instantly personalized site, the partner can use public Facebook information,
such as name, profile picture, gender and connections, to personalize the
The Website will ask a user's explicit permission to use any nonpublic info.
Each instant personalization partner is required to display a blue Facebook
notification at the top of its Website when users first arrive at the site.
To be fair, Facebook has been nothing short of transparent about the way its
social plug-ins and personalization plans work, but that hasn't stopped privacy
watchdogs and consumer advocates from raising the cautionary flags on behalf of
On its new Facebook group, Moveon.Org wrote: "Did you see what Facebook
is trying to do? They've launched a new program that shares info about you and
your friends with external websites-whether you want them to or not. They're
calling it 'instant personalization.' We're calling it a major violation of
your privacy. Again."
The "again" scenario MoveOn.org is referring to is Facebook Beacon
, the now dead social advertising program that
exposed information about users to others without seeking their permission.
Facebook users viewed this as a gross violation of their privacy, and
a petition to oppose Beacon signed by more
than 50,000 people. Ultimately, the opposition forced the Website to backtrack
before settling a class-action lawsuit.
MoveOn.org's petition, signed by 43,000 members through April 30, can be
For those who want more information about how instant personalization works and
how to block it, users may go here
The EFF got more creative, delving into the Web's deep archives to uncover
Facebook's privacy policies going back to 2005, when the Website was known as
Thefacebook and "no personal information that you submit to Thefacebook
will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least
one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings."
EFF senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl wrote
"When it started, it was a private space for communication with a group
of your choice. Soon, it transformed into a platform where much of your
information is public by default. Today, it has become a platform where you
have no choice but to make certain information public, and this public
information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to
Facebook defended instant personalization as a move to make the site more
social in an e-mail to CNET
"Instant personalization isn't surfacing anything you couldn't already
do on these sites. You can find your friends on Pandora and Yelp through
contact importers regardless. Many people were already sharing their names with
Yelp and their favorite artists with Pandora. Instant personalization just
removes a step and makes your friends, their actions and interests more
prominent on the sites."
The protests by the EFF and MoveOn.org come just days after U.S.
Senators Charles Schumer, Michael Bennet, Al Franken and Mark Begich sent a letter
to Facebook CEO
Mark Zuckerberg asking the company to revisit the instant personalization tool.
The senators April 27 requested that Facebook keep user information private
by default and make sure it can only be shared with third parties if the user