The “Beacon” fallout continues. The New York Times’ Louise Story says Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg misled her about Beacon’s being “opt-in.” Coca-Cola got a similar impression from the company–and, having learned the truth, is holding off on using the program. Meanwhile, Facebook’s spokesman attempts to explain to the NYT’s Louise Story what Zuckerberg really meant–and makes matters worse.
At Facebook’s Nov. 6 extravaganza to introduce its new social advertising features, I asked the first question after the speech of Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s 23-year-old chief executive. I asked why he thought lots of users would want to have information about their purchases sent to their Facebook friends through the company’s new system called Beacon. He made it clear that users would be allowed to choose whether to participate, and he implied that the choice would be explicit, or opt-in…
I was surprised then when I saw the first version of Beacon, because it automatically sent your friends information on your purchases on participating sites, unless you acted to prevent it. It was an opt-out program. (Yesterday, Facebook reversed that policy.)
[Actually, they didn’t. It’s still opt-out, at least according to the information we’ve read. A fully opt-in system would be preferable, but Facebook is presumably worried that few people would opt-in.]
I’m hardly the only one who found a gap between what Facebook said and what it did. And this may be costing it some of the blue-chip support that it had amassed. Coca-Cola, for example, has decided not to use Beacon for now…This morning [the Coke source] said: “I, like you, certainly understood that it would be opt-in. That’s what I heard before as well as what I heard on the 6th.”
[Ouch. You can dismiss whiny “pundits” all you want, but when major advertisers you touted as being charter members of the program decide you jerked them around, you had better start apologizing in a hurry.]
Matt Hicks, a Facebook spokesman, said Mr. Zuckerberg had meant that users would be given the opportunity to opt out of having information sent out by Beacon, and the company had assumed that anyone who didn’t say no meant yes.
[This is almost the worst part of it. Anyone can make a mistake on stage, and perhaps Zuckerberg did (although it certainly sounds like Louise asked for and got clarification). But when a company tries to “clarify” an executive’s remarks, it is critical that they help rather than hurt the cause. Matt Hicks’ explanation just confirms the general frustration: Facebook either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care.]
Time for Facebook to look in the mirror and realise that it’s not a quirky little start-up anymore.
See Also:How Mark Zuckerberg Can Save His Sinking Reputation
Judge Rules Against Facebook in Scandalous Magazine Article Suit
Facebook Goes Nuts About Privacy Violation
Facebook Gives Up On Beacon, Keeps Secrecy Fetish
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