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Facebook Will Shut Down Beacon To Settle Lawsuit 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the strategic-retreats dept.
alphadogg writes "Facebook has agreed to shut down its much-maligned Beacon advertising system in order to settle a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed in August of last year, alleged that Facebook and its Beacon affiliates like Blockbuster and Overstock.com violated a series of laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Video Privacy Protection Act, the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and the California Computer Crime Law. The proposed settlement, announced late on Friday, calls not only for Facebook to discontinue Beacon, but also back the creation of an independent foundation devoted to promoting online privacy, safety and security. The money for the foundation will come from a US$9.5 million settlement fund."
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Facebook Will Shut Down Beacon To Settle Lawsuit

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  • by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:25PM (#29477291)

    The idea that "privacy" continues to exist in any shape, way, or form in a world where an NSA text-mining system reads every email, text message, blog post, and Slashdot comment you ever write is laughable. Why don't these jokers go after the people who flagrantly violate your privacy every minute of every day?

  • by glitch23 (557124) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:30PM (#29477319)

    The idea that "privacy" continues to exist in any shape, way, or form in a world where an NSA text-mining system reads every email, text message, blog post, and Slashdot comment you ever write is laughable.

    I'd like to see the article providing proof of that level of monitoring by the NSA (or any other government agency for that matter).

  • by ifwm (687373) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:31PM (#29477333) Journal

    The proposed settlement, announced late on Friday, calls not only for Facebook to discontinue Beacon, but also back the creation of an independent foundation devoted to promoting online privacy, safety and security.

    That's great, if only something like that existed already, they could avoid the cost of starting a whole new organization.

    http://www.eff.org/ [eff.org]

  • by ledow (319597) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:40PM (#29477401) Homepage

    I think there's a major difference between "*potentially could monitor any* unencrypted email, text message, blog post" and "*always monitors every*..."

    Lots of people are hugely, sadly confused by this difference and to be honest, I doubt even the first exists all the time so much as "can be put into place if we suspect something". But then, if I was the NSA, I'd love my countrymen to think it was possible just to scare them off doing it and make it look like I was busy. Especially if the reality was that even the simplest of modern encryption and/or obfuscation is enough to defeat years of analysis by experts and supercomputers and could turn out to be you sending some spam over an SSL-encrypted connection to an email server.

  • mixed feelings (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binaryseraph (955557) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @02:04PM (#29477559)
    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am pleased that there are those who are fighting to preserve internet privacy in the face of a very aggressive marketing world. That being said, it is very hard for me to support a lawsuit against a social networking site, that 1.users have to sign up to use 2.no one pays to be a member of. 3.is not a financial/medical/etc company or something that contains what one may deem as sensitive data. While I dont know enough about the ad system they put in place, i am willing to bet one could defeat their "beacon system" by using some fairly basic practices and principals of online use. i.e. disabling cookies, monitoring what 'active-x' apps are being run and not using facebook as a means for any important communiation (or hey, just dont use facebook at all). But hey, i'm just another web user. what do i know?
  • Re:mixed feelings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @02:10PM (#29477583) Homepage

    The thing is, Facebook, like Google, has become the Way that Lots of Things are Just Done. Too many of my family members use it to stay in touch: if I eschewed it, it would be like not participating in the extended family. Circles of friends work the same way.

    When a social platform gets big enough, becoming a de facto standard, the choice to participate or not participate is somewhat weightier than the choice to ïbuy or not buy other types of goods.

  • by KlaasVaak (1613053) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @02:21PM (#29477659)
    Availability of data is way more important than data not being 100% private. Your private data in a super secret NSA database somewhere vs your private data going to people you know. I know what I'd pick thank you.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @02:56PM (#29477851)

    Yeah opt-in medical care without getting raped by health insurers, fuck me that's soooo unamerican!

    I have opt-in medical care, living in america, and no one pays for my health insurance.

    Its really not that hard to do.

    Expecting someone else to take care of your lazy ass because you're too stupid to read the fine print or spend some of your own time figuring out what you're signing up for is rather unamerican.

    You can change the medical situation in america without government intervention. Truth be told however, you'd rather sit there and do nothing and not make any effort yourself directly to change anything, which will result in everyone getting another shitty government ran mess.

    I know people from other countries that have come to get american health care. I know of no one who has left to get health care. Just my own personal experience of course, but you'll have to pardon me if I take my real world experiences rather than that of someone on slashdot who is just whining about something they want someone else to do something about. Feel free to do the same yourself.

  • by Anders (395) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:15PM (#29477977)
    Why do you believe that nuclear decay is random?
  • by ledow (319597) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:23PM (#29478017) Homepage

    Sorry, but it's just not enough to "prove" anything.

    A photo of a room in a major ISP? So what? And a LOT of people work in ISP's - are you telling me there's a fully-functional, virtually unmaintained (or regularly visited/updated/upgraded by "secret admins" on the ISP's premises?), supercomputer analysing every packet going through every major ISP, when *connectivity*, *latency*, *packet-moving* is their main performance factor? There might be *something* that *might* be able to, say, pump a new route for IP's that are known to be "interesting" and thus reroute particular parts of traffic through a closed system stored at an ISP.

    I know people who work in some of the largest datacentres / hosting facilities in the world. Such rooms may well *exist* but you don't just have random "secret joes" that only the datacentre manager knows the purpose of wandering into them all the time, and you certainly *never* have a problem which traces back to those rooms (the damning fact if they were actually monitoring 24/7 and had to actually intercept traffic - things go wrong in even the smallest of networks and causes back-scatter along the networking infrastructure), you never have latency issues, etc. from a supposed room full of *supercomputers* (which are the only things that could ever have the necessary I/O) that are basically sitting there quietly sapping power and working perfectly and presumably remote-admined and which every member of staff turns a blind eye to. Even just read-only tapping at those sorts of speeds is stupid to consider on a large scale, and on a small scale it doesn't exist at all. And for what? To do only plain-text analysis and catch basically no-one because anyone with half a brain knows how to use something that has encryption that's virtually unbreakable with months of analysis?

    Most of the major Internet points are actually universities still - a hangover from when they *were* the Internet. They don't have such things and would be strictly opposed to them. Most of the small ISP's do *not* have this. It's conceivable that most of the major international links are monitored in some fashion but it's an *off-line* analysis - not sitting there analysing every packet in real-time... again, it's a *request* based system - "We know this IP is interesting, reroute it through this box so we can capture the full stream" and they find out the IP is interesting not by reading everyone's Facebook posts but by what they've been doing for hundreds of years - real espionage. Basically the I/O required to do constant analysis of *anything* just does not exist on those sorts of scales and certainly not in a closed, secret room in every ISP.

    Please don't propagate bullshit rumours without first providing one tiny ounce of proof of *WHAT* is happening rather than "oh, super-secret room, they must be doing...". The rooms, computers, blackboxes may well exist - I give you that. Past that, given the state of any modern government and the technology and the military intelligence communities, I seriously doubt they do more than use it to reroute a tiny number of already chosen IP ranges to their remote systems for analysis. Wikileaks would jump at the chance to host a couple of photos showing the tech's arriving to maintain those things and if you think it'd be impossible to get an illicit photo of someone entering a datacentre when you work in one, you're wrong.

  • by Imrik (148191) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @04:55PM (#29478651) Homepage

    Is it really retreating from your point when another point becomes more important? Using up our computer resources is a relatively small annoyance compared to interfering with fair use.

  • by Xest (935314) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @05:57PM (#29479097)

    Well yes, that's kind of my point- they're taking more and more liberties with people's rights so the issues being defended are bigger and bigger problems. Realistically we should be fighting on all fronts, and ideally they'd have been stopped at that first step - using our resources, for their purposes so that we wouldn't even be at this step.

    There's another point though of course, in that when we let them use our resources for DRM, and started concentrating purely on fair use, they also assumed it okay to start using our resources, including our bandwidth, to insert advertising into games which we've already paid for to increase profits, at the expense of our resources. This is even more of an issue for me nowadays personally, in an era of stricter bandwidth caps, where I have a 20gb allowance per month and if I break it (which I do) I have to pay extra per gb- I'm paying so that they can send me advertising in games and profit from it, do I see a discount on the price of the game? do I get a cut of the ad revenue? In letting that battle slip in favour of a bigger one, we've already lost that battle and it's seeped into other areas.

  • by Tynin (634655) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @09:05PM (#29480117)

    This enables the NSA to intercept not only most Asian e-mail messages but also the entire U.S. internal Internet traffic.

    I'm going to call BS on that. Their is more tier 1 back bones going through USA than just AT&T. NSA would need to have monitoring setup on all tier 1's in order to really see the entire U.S. internal Internet traffic. Even then there would be fringe cases as not all email/traffic would go through these monitoring points, unless they are setup on the geographical border routes of the country.

  • by ledow (319597) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @10:44PM (#29480559) Homepage

    "More than a dozen people with positions everywhere"

    More than a dozen people in the high reaches of government have later gone on to claim that UFO's stole their washing. Astronauts claim they invented Free Energy, high-level scientists say they've cracked Fermat's Theorems without even understanding what they are. That means *nothing*. A dozen isn't a lot of people compared to the *thousands* (not even including actual government employees of any kind) that took part in or witnessed any such operation, and you can get a dozen people to admit *anything*, especially if, say, you were a large government that wanted its populous to believe it was being monitored - hell, you could even MAKE the people in question believe they've actually set up a program just by getting them to insert equipment into a room and telling them its purpose is "top secret".

    And I've never said that they weren't BUILT. I just claim that their purpose/capabilities are different to what you are assuming they are.

    "from the NSA itself to AT&T have admitted roles in the construction and operation of the tap rooms."

    Construction. Operation. Where do they mention actual real-time processing (not "if we were interested in subject X" but "finding subject X to be interested in") capabilities? That's what I'm challenging here. Not that they could monitor anyone, but that they do monitor everyone. One is easy, the other is fantasy-land even for 1984-style-governments (even China can only intercept, clumsily and publicly, some DNS and maybe search for plaintext strings of, say, "democracy" on websites and block them... and even that's got so many holes in it, it's basically worthless even on the bits it's supposed to work on).

    "The fed has repeatedly invoked the state secrets exception to kill lawsuits that even tangentially involve the tap program."
    "News agencies on every bar of the political rainbow have run reports confirming its existence and the New York Times at least was asked by the government not to go with its story."

    Standard operating procedure for anything, I should imagine, especially if the NSA are involved. That doesn't mean they have the *capability* that you're assigning to them - it just means they don't *want* you to know what they are (or more importantly, are not) capable of. Military and national-defence secrets stay secret, even if perfect knowledge of them can't help in any way (e.g. encryption techniques) purely because you don't want people to find out what you're NOT capable of.

    "Now I could write a research paper meticulously documenting the outing of the spy program in the press but anyone with access to Google could do the same thing in five minutes."

    No-one with a brain writes research papers based on stuff discovered by the press. The press are your LAST source of hard evidence in anything serious, which to me is just another pointer - if the press "know" about this stuff, it's because they are scaremongering themselves or inadvertently being used as a puppet for your government to scare you. It scares *me* that you think that only the press would be a good source or that five minutes on Google is your research - in five minutes on Google, I can "prove" the moon landings didn't happen, aliens run the planet and that Elvis is alive and has dinner with Michael Jackson on every alternate Tuesday. If "only the press" know, then the press don't know.

    "It exists."

    I don't doubt that the rooms exist. Or the equipment in those rooms exist. Or the program exists. Or even that a plan to *have* real-time analysis of the whole net exists. I doubt that the *capability* to implement it as you seem to think it works even exists anywhere, let alone inside a back room of every ISP.

    "The only question remaining is how much data the NSA sifts through and whose,"

    And what time machine they invented to cram it all into a reasonable window.

    "and the whistleblowers have been pretty clear on the point that the spooks aren't very discriminating."

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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