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After the Fallout, A Defense of Facebook Beacon

I haven’t been hanging out on Facebook very long or often these days, so I didn’t experience the “Big Brother”-ish alerts from Beacon that my colleague Jason Del Rey describes in his post. But, not living under a rock, I couldn’t miss all the bad PR Facebook has encountered because of Beacon and its privacy intrusions.

Then today, as I was doing background research/casual Web surfing, I ran across a post, dated from a week ago, on the blog Sexy Widget regarding Beacon. My immediate reaction: “Ha! If only Facebook had positioned this better. The way it’s described here, Beacon doesn’t sound half bad.” To read the post, click here; I definitely recommend it for a different perspective on the matter.

The most salient point that I took from the post was that Beacon doesn’t necessarily have to be blatantly commercial. Beside privacy concerns, much of the grumbling about Beacon centered upon what people believed to be incessant shilling of products. But the notifications are useful for other activities on the Web besides e-commerce. Sure, it’s about advertising, but so are those notices on the news feed that tell you when someone has added a new app. And I remember when the news feed first came out. Everyone hated it, including me — I even notified Facebook personally on the matter. But now the news feed is one of Facebook’s most acclaimed features, MySpace is copying it, and I have to admit it’s pretty clever.

Now, much of this is moot, as Facebook has not only made Beacon opt-in but also enabled users to turn it off completely. But now that I’ve read some analysis of Beacon’s potential, I hope that potential hasn’t entirely been quashed by the public’s disgust.

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