71 thoughts on “Zuckerberg's Mea Culpa, Not Enough”

  1. Your last line really hits the nail on the head. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and each time it happens again it makes people more skeptical/wary of what Facebook is doing. It would be really easy to get user opinion beforehand as they already have the tools to do so…why they wouldn’t do something so seemingly obvious is beyond me. Hell, they’d probably even get suggestions on improving such ideas (and they’d be free!).

  2. Well, to late. I shut down my profile. This company can not be trusted. Zuckerberg has a brite future but he needs to really grow up and gain some experience before he can run a company this size.
    The generic PR template that “we are sorry” just does not cut it.

    This company in no different than Club Penguin targeting teens and young adults whose greatest asset is time, not money. Time will tell, but they will NEVER become the next Google. There are already far to many companies doing the same thing and their “offering” is NOT disruptive imo.

  3. Zuckerberg’s post isn’t an admission that FB did anything wrong; it’s just him say they didn’t do it properly.

  4. Occam’s Razor might encourage us to believe that Beacon wasn’t some attempt to get away with something, but the result of a really young CEO’s assumption that all people share his (and his generation’s) disregard for privacy.

    But does Zuckerberg’s motivation matter when you’re deciding whether to trust Facebook? Beacon, and the way Facebook has tried to recover from user reactions (and the way Facebook has managed app invitations) suggests that at some fundamental level the Facebook management team just doesn’t respect user privacy. Maybe we can force fixes for the mistakes we can see, but the company will probably just keep trying to share more of our info without our knowledge, and some of these attempts will be invisible to us.

    If they want to build user trust they should announce a company philosophy of complete transparency and user control over personal information, and then they should back up that philosophy with re-designed features, interface and internal processes. Otherwise, next!

  5. Has anyone else notice that he has NOT addressed the issue of affiliates transmitting data about NON-FB users. Frankly, “…saying the information transmitted won’t be stored…” doesn’t cut it!

  6. Oh Om, you’re such a cynic. But thank heavens there is at least one cynic in the blogosphere.

    Looking at all of the “coverage” via Techmeme, you’re the only one still asking questions. Everyone else seems in a hurry to forgive and forget.

    You’re right. Why are Beacon partners sending data to Facebook when people have opted out? Even more pertinent, why are they sending information on people who don’t even have a Facebook profile?

    I have the list of Beacon partners pasted on the wall behind my monitor, just as a reminder of which sites not to visit.

    From what I’ve learned reading the court documents and Zuckerberg’s own testimony, Facebook owes its existence to deception. I have no reason to believe that anything has changed.

  7. For all the respect you built up with your insights and analysis in the techbiz space, I am dissappointed to see you sink to this level

    get your ego out of the way for being not responded to in a timely manner and let this go

    privacy is a red herring, use any of the other services out there if you dont like what Facebook does

    for the immense value i get from having siblings, university friends and business contacts all on one of the most successful and powerful networking platforms and it is fun and I enjoy being on there all the time

    if they have to share my birthday with coca-cola to provide all that value FREE, then by all means go ahead, i consciously and willingly put it in there

    like the man says: this is an ad-supported business or does the great OM carry the cost for his little media empire himself
    or maybe there’s a deeper issue here: Zuckerberg vs. Malik, there is a lot of meaning to be derived from those names or maybe it has more to do with Palestine not being recognised on Facebook

    tin foil hat aside be careful not to overplay your hand, the american dream worked out for you, dont mess it up

  8. Mario,

    Obviously you’re into conspiracy theories, so perhaps your time might be better spent actually analyzing the facts of this particular situation instead of invoking innuendo to hide your obvious xenophobic tendencies. See a shrink, man.

  9. Now it becomes incumbent on the partner sites to state their privacy policy regarding Beacon – whether they will share their information with FB or not as a default. I am assuming here that third parties can not access FB cookie to being with.

  10. Not sure I understand why FaceBook is taking so much heat for what other firms actively engage in all the time. Tacoda’s entire business model is built on behavioral targeting. There would be absolutely no difference in the latent interpretation and ad optimization (aka targeting) behavior if FB decided to become a paying customer of Tacoda or any of the other behavioral targeting firms. The only difference here is they built beacon themselves.

    Granted… FB does use some borderline grey hat techniques to actually exchange the data without getting knocked down as XSS (for more info check out http://www.radiantcore.com/blog/archives/23/11/2007/deconstructingfacebookbeaconjavascript
    ), but I view that as pretty darn innovative.

    If you are going to bash FB… bash the behavioral targeting industry as a whole.. and include all of Tacoda’s customers on your blacklists (which would basically mean not visiting any of the Internet top 10)

  11. So what will happen if behavioral ads becomes the de facto form of online advertising. It basically follows you around. should we stop using the internet? On the other hand, Google knows more about you than Facebook. How do we opt-out of Google? That lovely search bar on your Firefox does more than you think. It’s a spyware.

  12. Amazing, please Om, educate us on your thought about doubleclick, and google and their privacy practices. How come they get a pass?

  13. Om:

    I completely agree.

    Opt-Out still makes members initiate the process. I would argue that most FB members are completely unaware of what’s going on or how their data is being used. For Opt-Out to work, FB will need to inform the community of what that actually means and how member data is being used. Without educating, FB isn’t listening, they are still duping the majority of the members, IMHO.

  14. @NickH

    To my knowledge, those sites do not involve the transmission of data from one site to another. Google, as far a I know, relies heavily on cookies, which can be controlled by the user in their browse. Beacon does not.

  15. Chris,

    So because facebook is doing this inline and doubleclick / google / tacoda only do this on the back end, this makes facebook significantly worse? What am I missing?

  16. Behavioral targeting is fine under the following conditions: it is my behavior; so I must be in control of it. So let them subscribe to principles advocated by AttentionTrust.org.

  17. @Mario,

    You are way off base here. Not sure where the unrelated comments originate, but Om’s points are on point as far as transparency is concerned. If you’re not clear here, try business school, law school, or some college of any sort that may teach you the fundamentals of critical analysis.

    It’s okay to disagree with Om’s points, or any of the readers points. However, don’t attack race, religion, preference, or someone’s choice of shoes. It isn’t necessary, intelligent, practical, or useful.

    This said, be respectful in your disagreements. This would be warmly welcomed by all.

  18. Om,

    Though you raise valid points, which many users have argued for and against, the primary difference in the Beacon ad platform isn’t just serving ads based on your behavior, it is reporting and ad serving to your network based on your behavior. Beacon is a clumsy and wreckless attempt at monetizing word of mouth marketing based on a given user’s buying behavior. Conventional ad wisdom purports that an advertiser optimize ad messaging based on the target customer’s behavior. Beacon assumes that this behavior maps to the customer’s social network online, and that the user would not object to sharing their buying behavior with their social network. This conflicts with conventional ad wisdom given that word of mouth validation is lacking in Beacon, AND the sharing of the customer’s buying behavior is HUGELY intrusive.

    Personal preferences are… well personal! Word of mouth, on the other hand, is somewhat sacred in that it is part of what makes real social interaction REAL. What a novel concept. Perhaps if the management of Facebook were more experienced and knowledgeable (both education and business experience), then perhaps they would not have made such a green marketing mistake with Beacon.

    Facebook could have also done market testing with both focus groups and customer surveys. It is doubtful that Beacon would have survived market testing. This is marketing 1, and Facebook gets an F.

  19. @NickH First off, Beacon partners send data to Facebook even if you have opted out and are logged out of Facebook.

    Second, Google’s practices are completely transparent. They explain it all to you and you can get there on the main page. Google even shows you how you can do it.

    Third, Google can’t datamine your info the same way facebook can: Google knows what you surf, but not who you are. Facebook knows everything that you tell it.

    Fourth, Google’s cookies can be cleared or blocked DIRECTLY on your browser. Facebook avoids that entirely.

    Fifth,facebook lied to the press several times leading up to today and Zuckerberg still hasn’t addressed the data transmission for those who’ve opted out except by saying it doesn’t store the information. If that is the case, why do they send it?

  20. Zuck: Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information
    Me: Oh really like NewsFeeds which was unilaterally released without user approval and Beacon which gives no control to users – who the zuck are you kidding?
    What the zuck are you smoking – no one else believes this but you.

    Zuck: 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.
    Me: Commonly known as “hubris”. Not a good trait on the ‘net.
    Email lists learned this lesson when you were in middle school – instead of dissing older people because they are dumb you may want to look at history and learn so you don’t have to make the same mistakes over and over again with an audience of N x 10million users. Catch up with this century’s privacy standards when you have a moment out of the echo chamber, dude.

    Zuck: But we missed the right balance. At first we tried to make it very lightweight so people wouldn’t have to touch it for it to work.
    Me: WTZ? You mean you made it so slimy that no one would know you were doing it until it turned up on publicly viewable pages. And you actually thought N x 10 million people would just go along with this because….? Just plain zucking dumbness and blindness of arrogance comes to mind …

  21. I hope the masses revolt from Facebook. Frankly, the whole platform and site annoy me. And the arrogance attitude along with its privacy practices of the company just is icing on the cake.

    The amount of press written over this company is astonishing. And for what? A company that is basically Friendster connecting people together, with blaring ads all over the place, and practices that mislead people and violate every known privacy practice on the web?

    Does anyone just say hey wait a minute – Is this really that revolutionary? The problem they are solving is quick communication to friends, something the world solves with a simple email distribution list. Everything else including the silly apps, don’t do a lot for me. I could care less about virtual teddy bears, and other trinkets, or that my friends like or don’t like those trinkets.

    Sure their grown is impressive. So, was MySpace, until it became yesterday’s news.

  22. This whole Beacon episode if you notice from radical product launch to privacy outcry to sober apology. All this has been remarkably similar to the progression of events that accompanied Facebook’s introduction of the News Feed last year. Indeed, the combination of reckless product launch and considered response appears to be a Facebook trademark. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
    What they learned was that if you put something out there, people complain about it, you fix it and then people embrace it.

    Common lets all of us stop cribbing about this. There are a whole of other user expectations Facebook lives up to.


  23. Facebook’s goal, like all other corps, is to maximize profits and longevity for it’s owners. So they are pushing the boundary of what they can get away with to increase viral growth of their platform. It’s the correct thing to do for them, and their owners. Hopefully they did an assessment of the ROI and decided that the benefits of viral growth from beacon in spite of the backlash would be worth it.

    It’s just like Microsoft and open source OS’s.

    A small number of people will complain a lot and move over to linux, opensolaris, etc. 95% will shrug and stick with the dominant player.

    Microsoft should continue to push the limits to maximize profits for it’s owners as it’s obligated too. Government needs to step in to place the hard limits, and to adjust the ROI equation with penalties and credits for a corp’s behaviour.


  24. I used to be a big fan of Facebook’s, I’m not so sure, anymore. Last week FB deleted my account (that I had had over 1 year and had approx. 200 friends), with no warning/explanation.
    During email contacts with 4 FB “Customer Support” Reps over the week, I found FB to be arrogant, and, ironically being as FB is a communications company, very difficult/nearly impossible to communicate.

    Finally, FB sent me a curt “your account has been restored, sorry for any inconvience” form email. they gave no explanation at all.
    I’m glad to be on FB, but will I ever trust ’em again? That’s hard to say.

  25. I think people in general underestimate the data leakage which occurs in normal web use already. Just on top of my head, lets see what Google (really doesn’t matter) can find out about me. I don not have a Google account, email or what not, I also clean out all cookies on browser close.
    Anyway, I use Google maps to find directions to unknown addresses in the area, just to find out how long it will take to get there. If I use my home address repeatedly as a starting point for directions.
    A simple correlation with the origin of my ip address will show that this is most likely my home address.
    Looking up who lives there they know who I am.
    They know the avg. income of my neighbor hood.
    They can find my mortgage rate and which car I drive and how old it is.
    And …..

    Just by using my home address as a starting point for directions.
    Well come to the world of data mining.

  26. Om, it’s refreshing to see you post this! As some other’s point out, many (even otherwise reputable) tech blogs, are heralding this half-measure as a fix and applauding Zuckerberg for “stepping up” Thank you for pointing out that this actually just obfuscates the real privacy issues which have not at all been addressed.

    After all, just because you can block the display of something (in this case beacon data) doesn’t mean it stopped being transmitted. On top of that, it’s very hard to “trust” that nothing is being done with the data, when they’ve already lied about getting it in the first place!

  27. In Europe, the privacy directive that made the Passenger Name Record transmissions so difficult when the US decided to tighten up border security may actually allow the European Union to bring legal charges against the Beacon platform. Europeans have a far different concept of privacy rights than Americans. It will be interesting to see how the EU reacts to the (illegal) violation of the privacy of European citizens online.

  28. Maybe I’m seeing the glass 1 percent full but Facebook has performed a great service by raising the consciousness over what’s happening with privacy on the Internet. All this free content that we’re used to is being supported by advertising. But one of the prices we’re all paying is giving the ad engines lots of data about ourselves. That’s fine so long as we’re aware of it and can decide whether this is a good deal or a devil’s bargain. Lots of members of the Facebook community decided it was the latter. Of course if too many do then Zuckerberg’s going to have to figure out a better way to make money off of the fabulous community he’s built up.


    The unaired dark side of Facebook, or should I call it “Disgracebook” because of the extremely poor disgraceful way Facebook treats its members. The reason I say the unaired dark side of Facebook is I have yet to see anything announced on the prime time major news outlets about the disgraceful practices Facebook uses on its members. The Internet is bursting at its seems with unhappy disabled Facebook members who have posted thousands of complaints everywhere it is possible to post complaints about Facebooks complete lack of customer service and mean spirited disregard for concerns, questions and feedback from members and former members.
    If anyone thinks Facebook is “listening” to its members or advertisers or anyone wanting to communicate with them, they simply DO NOT know what they are talking about! Facebook ruthlessly, rigorously, relentlessly, and remorselessly walks all over its members with hob nailed boot polices of culling members from membership for unspecified unknown reasons and then accuses the permanently disabled unacceptable members as “possibly” being guilty of spamming or “possibly” being guilty of harassing other members because of asking too many members to be friends at an unspecified rate. Facebook goes on to permanently disable unacceptable members accounts that have too many friends, belongs to too many groups, pokes too many unknown times, sends too many email messages and on and on and on. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, says that Facebook members seem to take a “personal ownership” of their Facebook accounts. Well, golly gee Mark, Facebook is supposedly a SOCIAL Internet program that people join to meet and make new friends. Making new friends, at least to me, is personal and publishing real photographs and genuine personal information on Facebook seems personal to me. Maybe you should say in your rules and regulations that Facebook wants members to be real and genuine but do not join Facebook for personal reasons and do not expect to be treated in a true genuine caring manner because Facebook does not care in the least about what you think or how you feel. When Facebook says you are guilty of breaking polices you will be treated with complete lack of respect in an impersonal sterile manner and declared unacceptable and permanently banned from Facebook without recourse.

    On Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Fan Page Mark states “I’m trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share.” I am glad Mark says he is “trying etc.” because, in my opinion, he certainly has NOT accomplished his mission. Facebook is one of the most closed undemocratic uncaring unsocial business operations since the formation of the Gestapo. Facebook operates carte blanche without regard of a due process of rights for members Facebook deems unacceptable to be a member of its supposed Internet social network service and therefore, disables their account without warning. Facebook justifies its policy and actions under the euphemism of “protecting members” from “repeated actions that COULD BE CONSTRUED as spam,” and from anything Facebook makes up to be a threat to its security. Although Facebook publishes what it SAYS are its rules and regulations, Facebooks security is a computer program of unpublished nonspecific rules and regulations that are enforced by an automated, autocratic, uncaring broadly defined bureaucratic computer program that members violate without knowing it and then booted out of Facebook. If this is not Gestapo like policy, I guess I do not know what it is because it certainly is un-American to say the least!

    Furthermore, in my opinion, Facebook is NOT a Internet “social network service.” When joining Facebook you are, in reality, joining an Internet money making “computer advertising program” that is set up to look like a Internet “social network service” for the public. In essence, the Internet “social network service” is a screen or cover for a “computerized advertising” empire designed with one thing in mind, the bottom line profits for Facebook investors. I am all for investors making a profit and if the investors will wake up they can increase their profits by paying attention to the consumer members of Facebook. As it stands now, the consumer is NOT king on Facebook. Facebook can at any time without having to explain its decision declare any member persona non grata. Is it any wonder Facebook members are treated with total disregard for being feeling thinking real people? I have yet to know of a computer program that is able to feel and or to reason. When placing a phone call to Facebook you are treated rudely and crassly informed to use their computerized automated services, which do not reply when used or quickly transferred to an automated answering service to which there is no reply.

    Why a business would choose to advertise on “Disgracebook” is beyond my ability to understand sound business practices? I know that I will not purchase any goods or services advertised on “Disgracebook” and I urge anyone mauled by “Disgracebooks” insensitivity to boycott anything advertised by this disgraceful, despicable, sorry company!

    If “Disgracebook” is treating its foreign members as poorly as it treats its domestic members “Disgracebook” is not only giving itself a black eye it is giving the United States of America a black eye. Is there anyone out there who cares enough and can communicate with Facebook to help Facebook become a user friendly Internet social network service it claims to be?

    I strongly urge anyone interested to please research what I am informing you of because I assure you the situation I have explained is the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. Until the media and or business community and elected officials takes notice of and makes public “Disgracebooks” dark side inhuman treatment of people Mark Zuckerberg and his staff and money making computer program will continue to execute its falsely accused unacceptable members and fill up trenches behind “Disgracebooks” California headquarters with their discarded accounts.

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