Facebook Lets Users Turn Off Beacon

CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologizes and allows users to switch off the controversial ad program users claim violated their privacy.

Bowing to pressure from users, partners and privacy advocates, Facebook has agreed to let its users turn off its controversial Beacon advertising system.

The back-pedal is the latest move from a company that infringed on peoples' privacy by using its network of more than 55 million users as a testing ground for socially-targeted ads.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a contrite blog post Dec. 5 that users will be able to turn off Beacon, and Facebook will not store information about transactions even when partners send them to Facebook. The leader of the Palo Alto, Calif., social network also apologized for taking too long to fix the problems despite customer complaints.

Some of these complaints made their way to Beacon partners, who withdrew or withheld from participating in the system, which funnels information about Facebook users' online purchases or activities and renders them in their friends' News Feeds.

Coca-Cola, Bluefly.com and Overstock.com said they were taking a wait-and-see approach to the ad program. Overstock.com pulled out from Beacon Nov. 21 after receiving about three dozen complaints about the system.

Facebook's latest change for Beacon comes nearly a week after the company changed the system from opt-out to opt-in, a move made in response to an online petition signed by more than 50,000 users who were angry that their online activities were broadcast to friends in their social network.


Facebook switches Beacon to opt-in. Click here to read more.

When Beacon was launched Nov. 6., Beacon partners such as Overstock.com and Blockbuster.com could log details of users' transactions and circulate them to Facebook profiles.

If users didn't click an opt-out button that appeared on the site for a few seconds, Beacon partners alerted Facebook, which posted the transaction in the News Feeds section of friends' pages.

Beacon backfired, with users complaining that their friends were finding out things about them they didn't want to know. MoveOn.org rallied around the users Nov. 20 and set up and online petition that grew to more than 50,000 users in nine days. Facebook tinkered with several changes in the week that followed, but finally made Beacon opt-in Nov. 29.


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