What Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg lacks in foresight, he certainly makes up for in disingenuous hair-shirt remorse. After two weeks of hue and cry over Facebook’s month-old Beacon advertising system and its disregard for member privacy, Zuckerberg today apologized for the company’s misstep and announced some of the fundamental changes to Beacon that users have been calling for.
“Once every 100 years, the way that media works fundamentally changes,” Zuckerberg stated … (kidding ….)
“We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it,” he wrote. “…When we first thought of Beacon, our goal was to build a simple product to let people share information across sites with their friends. … At first we tried to make it very lightweight so people wouldn’t have to touch it for it to work. The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends. … It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share. … Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I’m not proud of the way we’ve handled this situation and I know we can do better.”
And the company is trying. Today it released a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely. Said Zuckerberg, “If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.”
That’s a pleasant assurance, but one that some say doesn’t go nearly far enough. “So essentially he’s saying the information transmitted won’t be stored but will perhaps be interpreted,” writes Om Malik. “Will this happen in real time? If that is the case, then the advertising ‘optimization’ that results from ‘transmissions’ is going to continue. Right! If they were making massive changes, one would have seen options like ‘Don’t allow any Web sites to send stories to Facebook’ or ‘Don’t track my actions outside of Facebook.’ ”