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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 CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:35PM (#29477367) Homepage

    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).

    Not only is there an article, there was a major governmental investigation. The European Parliament's ECHELON report [cryptome.org] provoked an enormous scandal in nerd circles when it appear. Bamford's Body of Secrets [amazon.com] provided fuller details, many based on inside contacts.

    Sadly, things like PGP and interest in ECHELON reports seem to have become less popular among geeks. I wonder why. Sure, one might trust PGP less when there are ways to get around it or compel you personally to give up the key, but it's odd that people suddenly have zero passion for the technology.

  • by StreetStealth (980200) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @02:09PM (#29477581) Journal

    The fact that Beacon is being shut down, the $9.5mil settlement, or even this nebulous new "independent foundation" are all secondary to one thing:

    This delivers the message, unequivocally, that you don't sell out your users' private actions. Sure, plenty of other businesses engage in this sort of thing all the time in much more subtle ways than broadcasting what you thought was a private transaction, but in its own way, this is a coup. It's not going to change anything, even Facebook, overnight, but it's a loud and clear warning to any business thinking of pushing its luck.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:46PM (#29478135)

    Facebook blocked the link to TFA. I tried a tinyurl link to the fine article and that is blocked too. Shows up on my wall, but not in the news feed.

    I knew they were evil, but I didn't know they were THIS evil.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 19, 2009 @04:30PM (#29478457)

    I maintain that lawyers are suing the social networking services right now because it's hip and sexy and gets you on the cover of Time. There are much more effective ways to benefit the privacy of the American people but as I said above they will likely kill the political careers these 1-800-scumbags are trying to kickstart.

    Not to defend lawyers, but the lawyers are suing the social networking services because they're hired to sue the social networking services. The lawyers are lining up because it's profittable for them. The cases aren't very difficult, don't take very long, and have huge payouts.

    On the other hand, there's nothing stopping you, or anybody else for that matter, from hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit against the NSA. Fact of the matter is, you probably don't care enough to put up your own money for it, and nobody else does either. The case would be long, difficult, expensive, and the chances of winning are a lot lower than in the social network lawsuits.

    If you really care, but don't have the money, you could try setting up a non-profit or something like that to collect donations to hire lawyers and pay for it that way. But you probably don't care that much either.

    It's depressing, but it's not the lawer's fault.

  • by Xest (935314) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @04:36PM (#29478491)

    It's part of a bigger retreat I've noticed in the last decade or so in the geek community.

    Another example is DRM, in the 90s I recall there being uproar from many geeks if a company would use your CPU cycles and your memory/disk space for their commercial interest like DRM does. Nowadays whilst DRM is still complained about, the argument seems to be based on what it stops you doing or how it can go wrong, there seems to have been a retreat from the fundamental argument that they are using your property for their interests.

    Of course it sounds petty to argue about a company using a few kb on your system for some copy protection scheme or for their DRM on each of your music tracks because we have so much memory free, but that misses the point- if you retreat from your original point, you become forced to further and further give concessions where you shouldn't have to on privacy, on DRM, on whatever.

    It's that slippery slope thing, if you give them an inch they'll take a mile, and that's what's happened on many issues. Things that used to be entirely unacceptable have become accepted and the frontline in the fight for our rights has been pushed back. I don't exactly know why this is but I suspect it's because when the geeks said "Don't you dare do that" and they did it anyway, not an awful lot actually happened in response. Perhaps it's just that we had successes like the iPod which were horribly locked down and DRM'd rising to popularity and nullifying the argument that anyone other than geeks gave a shit in the first place? Bluray becoming the winning HD format despite being far more DRM laden due to BD+ and so on? Coupled on a political level with the likes of George Bush and Tony Blair winning the elections in 2004 and 2005 respectively despite having proven themselves as being willing to take away our fundamental right to freedom in the name of preventing terrorists, er, taking away our fundamental right to freedom?

    Either way it's quite sad. It amuses me now to see things like the anarchists cookbook being brought up in court trials and so on as a terrorist handbook- I don't think I knew anyone on the internet in the 90s who didn't have a copy of it, now it's being classed as basically "illegal literature".

    Something definitely went wrong somewhere in the geek movement for privacy, freedom and rights.

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