The Facebook backlash

Beacon, Facebook’s relatively new but long shouted-about advertiser service has generated some of the worst press the social network site’s seen in a long time.

By adding three lines of code to a page, Beacon reports on your activity on third party advertisers’ websites outside of Facebook, plonking the information back into friends’ news feeds.

This could be something you’ve bought, a film you rated or the fact you signed-up to a newsletter.

Great for brands, right? Another way to get in front of people via a ‘trusted’ source. However some weren’t quite so wowed.

Coke, one of Facebook’s Beacon partners, pulled out early this month when it discovered users would have to opt-out rather than opt-in. They decided to ‘wait and see’, saying they weren’t sure ‘how consumers are going to respond’.

The online community wasn’t impressed either, with tech bloggers up in arms and Moveon.org, the online democracy campaigners, making it their mission to get Facebook to back down.

The concern for both is privacy; when companies start tracking what you do outside of Facebook, then report it to everybody you know, people get twitchy.

As a result of the backlash Facebook did eventually back down and now users have to explicitly opt-in to before the info is displayed.

This puts the usefulness of Beacon into question, after all, who’s really going to want everything they do advertised (more than it is already) to the world? But that’s not really the point – there are plenty of other solid ways for brands to engage consumers on Facebook.

It’s more interesting to see how the idea may not have been fully thought through and what that can do to even the most trusted brands.

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