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Privacy Social Networks

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 @12:25PM (#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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by glitch23 (557124)

      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 CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:35PM (#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.

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by ifwm (687373)

          Not only is there an article

          No there isn't. The original statement was

          reads every email, text message, blog post, and Slashdot comment you ever write

          Which ECHELON, while invasive, does not do. Nothing does that, not even the NSA, and there are no articles that show otherwise as it isn't done.

          You should try to read for comprehension, you'll avoid errors like that in the future.

          • You should try to read for comprehension

            And you need to work on reading anything at all. You'll see plenty from reputable sources on NSA data mining. UTFG man.

          • by ssintercept (843305) <ssintercept@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @02:25PM (#29478019) Journal
            while i do not know if slashdot posts are monitored, NOVA (PBS) had an interesting documentary called -> 'The Spy Factory'.
            for the truly lazy -> http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/spyfactory/program.html [pbs.org]
            here is a short synopsis -> http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/spyfactory/about.html [pbs.org]
            the most telling part is:
            "NOVA follows the trail of just one typical e-mail sent from Asia to the U.S. Streaming as pulses of light into a fiber-optic cable, it travels across the Pacific Ocean, coming ashore in California, and finally reaching an AT&T facility in San Francisco, where the cable is split and the data sent to a secret NSA monitoring room on the floor below. This enables the NSA to intercept not only most Asian e-mail messages but also the entire U.S. internal Internet traffic."
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Tynin (634655)

              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.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by drinkypoo (153816)

                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.

                Those who do not remember the lessons of history are doomed, yo. Remember how we had a big flap recently about telecoms immunity? About how every provider but Qwest caved immediately? Guess what, the phone network is the internetwork. They've got everyone tapped. They are going to see any email that travels any significant distance, period.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by lennier (44736)

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

              I pity the poor NSA grunt who's assigned to 4chan.

              It's probably a punishment post.

        • I can't be naive enough to think that there is an encryption scheme available to the public that these guys don't know how to crack

          The only thing I'd dare to trust (and possibly not even completely) are One-time pads generated with the best RNG I can get my hands on. Either a mechanical dice-throwing machine or something based on nuclear decay. I wouldn't even trust the VIA Padlock RNG built into my server because I have no way of checking that the numbers are actually being generated the way VIA claim t
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Riachu_11 (600557)
            I don't really think this is a concern. AES, for example, was vetted by a lot of very smart independent mathematicians and cryptologists who didn't find a secret back door. And brute-forcing it is impractical even if they have computers 10 Moore's law jumps ahead of ours. You should be much more concerned about being forced to give up your key.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anders (395)
            Why do you believe that nuclear decay is random?
            • Clearly the NSA is supressing papers reporting patterns found in nuclear decay. Wouldn't want people to switch to stronger RNGs...
          • by Splab (574204)

            You should probably go see a doctor, being that paranoid can't be healthy.

            Fwiw one time pads doesn't have to be that random, it works because you and the recpient are the only ones who has the key, as long as you are absolutely 100% sure of where the pad has been from generated to used there is no way anyone can ever decipher the code. (of course if you are using a compromised computer to generate the code or write the original, you have lost).

        • 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.

          It's not that there is no passion for it, it's that many people feel (correctly or not) that they have nothing to hide... and some of them sometimes think that the people that espouse encrypting everything would like to not stand out so much in their own activities (like encrypting everything). If there are twelve pink cows in a herd of a thousand, it's pretty easy to see them, and you just HAVE to wonder why in the hell they are pink.

          Many of us understand that there is no real anonymity, only an escalatin

        • by msimm (580077)
          The technology was too cumbersome for use in casually and had a negative connotation because of its use in DRM. Being technically geeky does not make us immune to laziness or inconvenience, hence the bad-man argument (why bother hiding something if the thing is not worth hiding).
        • by Xest (935314) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:36PM (#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.

          • by Imrik (148191) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:55PM (#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.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Xest (935314)

              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

        • by Dan541 (1032000)

          until PGP is built into outlook and other clients by default, it will not see widespread use. If I encrypt an email no one will be able to read it, so encryption defeats the purpose of email in the first place.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            I don't think I know a single person whom I can send an encrypted e-mail too (someone with a public key).

            This makes it very hard to send an encrypted e-mail

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ihmhi (1206036)

          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.

          Because I don't think most of us think the NSA gives a shit about reading our Battlestar Galactica fanfiction or listening to our Vent sessions for WoW raids.

          If it's serious enough that the NSA would get involved, I think most geeks nowadays wouldn't even communicate about it over a transmission protocol that could be intercepted - which is pretty much any save for talking in person (unless you believe the nutjobs who say stuff like the CIA has microphones hidden in traffic lights).

        • by glitch23 (557124)
          For one thing, Echelon was for the NSA to monitor European users (not Americans). For another, the report states that the NSA was monitoring email but nothing about other forms of communication which were specified in the post to which I responded.
      • by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:40PM (#29477399)
        NSA's Domestic Spying Grows As Agency Sweeps Up Data (WSJ) [wsj.com]

        Report: Obama to use NSA to monitor Net (USA Today) [usatoday.com]

        NSA Must Examine All Internet Traffic to Prevent Cyber Nine-Eleven, Top Spy Says (Wired) [wired.com]

        In short, the NSA has been reading everything sent in plaintext since Bush II, and yet the EFF spends untold millions on lawsuits to make sure that my friends on Facebook don't know what kind of pizza I order from Domino's. What a great allocation of scarce pro-privacy resources.

        I know exactly why this is: if you sue Facebook or Twitter or whatever, you get your name in the papers. If you go after the NSA you get called "soft on terror" and your campaign bid for governor of East Nowhere is sunk.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hairyfeet (841228)

          And what would you have them do against the NSA? Like it or not, short of armed revolution there ain't a damned thing you can do about the NSA. Politicians come, politicians go, the NSA remains. Hell the elections have become so worthless that it isn't even funny anymore, with BOTH sides being so power hungry it is scary, and the only difference being which particular corporate booty they smooch, so what exactly would you have them do about a spook factory like the NSA?

          Hell with their kind of power I have

        • by glitch23 (557124)
          All 3 articles you linked to only discuss what the NSA wants to do, not what they currently *can* or *are* doing. But, the one article did mention Obama is still all for implementing Einstein 3 for monitoring commercial networks that carry government data so with that said, I wonder how many Slashdot users like Obama now?
      • by Jurily (900488)

        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).

        I'd like to see the summary at least hinting at what Facebook actually did. Some of us don't care enough to RTFA, but it would be nice to know.

        Also, that level of monitoring would require them to connect "every email, teyt message, blog post, and Slashdor comment" to be attached to real people. Jurily is not traceable to me.

        • by EsJay (879629)
          Summary of what Facebook actually did: "Beacon was designed to broadcast back to their friends the actions that Facebook members took on participating Web sites...Many people were horrified to find out that their friends were being informed of actions, like purchases, they had undertaken in other Web sites."
        • by Khyber (864651)

          "Jurily is not traceable to me."

          I'd show you how wrong you are but then I'd be arrested for unauthorized access of a computer. (Gmail isn't that secure and you were stupid enough to leave your email address posted, no matter how obfuscated, here on slashdot.)

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        If the tin-foil hat consortium thinks it's true that's all the evidence they need. Facts are an inconvenience.

      • by rubi (910818)

        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).

        That would be "the system", if only due to the computing capacity needed to do that!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ledow (319597)

      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

      • by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:59PM (#29477523)

        The sad truth is that the NSA is actually reading everything via data mining. There are pictures of the "tap rooms" inside data centers of every major ISP in the US where they set up their equipment and dip into the petabytes of data that get transferred in plaintext every day. So human beings aren't reading all of your sexy letters to your girlfriend/Linux box/dog, but I'm sure the system is set up to flag "interesting" correspondence for human analysis.

        The net result for the life of the average nerd: probably not much unless you have hobbies the NSA doesn't like, such as developing cryptographic software or Islamic studies. But then killing Beacon was even less pointless privacy-wise, because it was only ever going to be used to generate data for targeting ads (which Google already does) and plastering your face on them (which Google doesn't).

        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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ledow (319597)

          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 f

          • by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:34PM (#29478483)

            More than a dozen people with positions everywhere from the NSA itself to AT&T have admitted roles in the construction and operation of the tap rooms. 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. 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. It exists. The only question remaining is how much data the NSA sifts through and whose, and the whistleblowers have been pretty clear on the point that the spooks aren't very discriminating. I'm sorry, but one guy on Slashdot saying "no, it isn't" can't undo three years of meticulous investigative journalism by the newspapers of record of both the left and right wings and the bravery of those involved who have admitted their involvement.

            I am thankful every day for the fact that we live in the world's leakiest democracy, so we at least know about these wanton violations of our civil rights. But after a couple of token lawsuits the EFF essentially gave up and now wastes its time keeping my pizza orders out of the hands of my Facebook pals. It's a sad day when the only outfit I can count on to fight the government out of my private life is the government.

            • by ledow (319597) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @09:44PM (#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."

              • Oh, I should just add in passing that then-AG Alberto Gonzales admitted the existence of the NSA spy program after the Times article came out. He said that it was substantially in the form reported in the press but understandably refused to provide details.

                I appreciate a healthy dose of skepticism but this is absolutely not the place to administer it. Next you'll be telling me that the technical hurdles associated with going to the moon prove that we never landed men there.

                You seem to have a lot of difficul

                • by ledow (319597)

                  "admitted the existence of the NSA spy program ... was substantially in the form reported in the press but understandably refused to provide details."

                  Still no closer to anything that I'm asking for. Admittance of a program is actually *expected*, like I said in all the previous posts. And "substantially" in the same form, and taking "technical" things home from political statements of an attorney general is, again, just wishful-thinking and rumour-mongering. What he "admitted", from what I can work out,

                  • by lennier (44736)

                    "Again, "we have the capability to do X on demand" is a very different thing to "we routinely and automatically do X all the time to all traffic in the US (or anywhere else) and use it to pick up on trends for further analysis""

                    Agreed. The sheer bandwidth requirements of doing brute-force packet sniffing suggests to me that this would be probably more of an on-demand facility: if we can trace a Person of Interest to ISP X, then fire up black box at the big ISP or interconnect and start filtering all their p

              • by lennier (44736)

                "More than a dozen people in the high reaches of government have later gone on to claim that UFO's stole their washing."

                Nitpick, but US military/governmental interest in UFOs is actually very well documented in the declassified literature. http://two-roads.dailykos.com/ [dailykos.com] gives a good summary of the field. It's nothing like the sensationalism in pop culture, but lots of quiet investigation and acknowledgement of unexplained phenomena. Given that, it would be a conspiracy if high-level people all *denied* inte

              • by lennier (44736)

                "blackbox in every ISP that monitors everything"

                As I understand it, i's not every ISP that has an NSA tap room, it's a couple of key interconnect points. Much more easily manageable.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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 pro

          • by DarkOx (621550)

            IANAL but in the case of civil law, lawyers are not usually in the habit of taking cases they *know* they can't or won't win. It makes them appear foolish and that might damage their future prospects for getting quality clients with large check books.

    • You are the joke! Because you give up. You are the type that accepts that 2+2=5, just because "everyone around" is saying to. (When actually this is not even the case... but soon could be, thanks to people like you.)
      It takes two sides for such a privacy-free world to exist. The NSA is one of them. You are the other.
      As the ambassador of that kind of people: Thank you very much, asshole!

      P.S.: Q: Another name for "digital privacy". A: "encryption".

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Anonymous Coward has just purchased "Ova-Glan Hormonal Feminizing Pills" from Overstock.com! Order yours today!

    • 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.
    • I2P and stealthnet come to mind.

      Yes, you can be anonymous. Not as easily as some people might wish, but it can be done. Assuming, of course, that you aren't already targeted, and don't already have a keylogger on your machine.

      Of course, even with good tools, a lot of people are to stupid to remain anonymous. (I'm looking at the people who fall for scam malware alert, LMAO)

    • 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.

      So what consequences would it have if some paper pusher miles away from you, whom you'll probably never meet IRL has access to the loveletters to your boyfriend? In most cases, none.

      Beacon, on the other hand, has a much higher potential for real-life embarassment and mischief. Just imagine if you bought "Outing Yourself -- How to Come Out as Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends and Coworkers", and Beacon blasts the happy news to your list of 200 friends, which include family, close (and not so close...)

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The government invading my privacy is very worrisome and should be resisted. Facebook misusing the semi-private information I give to them is also very worrisome and should be resisted. The latter does not exclude the former. While only a fool starts two wars on two fronts, it's equally foolish to fight a war and ignore a front. It's a certain path to failure to let everyone but the worst offender go unopposed.

      Privacy has not been lost entirely. Absolute privacy cannot exist so long as there are othe
    • by jo42 (227475)

      ...an NSA text-mining system...

      There is actually an entity in the world that has more current information about you and your activities than anyone else. They have all your emails, your calendars, your documents, your locations, your voice mails, your credit card numbers, your search queries and who knows what else. They've suckered everyone in by providing these services for free and claiming to "do no evil". The name of The Beast is Google.

    • by Zearin (1315583)
      Only as laughable as your getting a speeding ticket while cops can drive as fast as they want. Laws are applied selectively, even by their own design sometimes.
  • by ifwm (687373) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:31PM (#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]

  • In MY USA?

    It's more likely than... oh wait...

  • mixed feelings (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binaryseraph (955557) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:04PM (#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 @01:10PM (#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 cavtroop (859432)

      3.is not a financial/medical/etc company or something that contains what one may deem as sensitive data.

      PII (Personally Identifiable Information) is considered sensitive, and several states (MA and NV in particular) have strict laws on the books about protecting that information.

      Granted, you GIVE that info to Facebook, mostly for the express purpose of putting it out there for others to find, but the laws are on the books.

    • 1.users have to sign up to use

      Users did sign up to Facebook, but did they also agree to Facebook and Amazon (for example...) sharing any data? Users signed up to LinkedIn, but they agree to LinkedIn and TripIt sharing any data?

      2.no one pays to be a member of.

      How is that relevant?

      3.is not a financial/medical/etc company or something that contains what one may deem as sensitive data.

      Try "book purchases". Or travel arrangments. While maybe not legally protected, they can be pretty embarrassing depending on what book you bought or where you went to at what specific date.

      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

      Geeks know about this stuff. But most other users probably won't. And even geeks tend to get lazy and not

    • by Xest (935314)

      I think the issue is that they would pass on your details without making clear to users what was going on.

      Joe Average finds a site he can use to get in touch with all his old friends, or keep in touch with family living abroad with ease and so on and signs up to it quickly and painlessly, he uses it for a year, in this time have discussed with friends what he likes to eat, what he likes to do. He is completely oblivious that all this data is being mined and passed on to advertising companies to use.

      I unders

      • My scenario was a bit limited and unfair, i will admit; and something as dramatic as sharing what you bought with other people online without your knowing is a bit out of line (Last thing I need is Grandma to know i bought Big Booties #7 on sale at Amazon). Or anyone knowing that on my FB account. But I am still not convinced that legal action is nessisary, especially to the tune of $9.5mil (pocket change or not). I also take strong issue with this being prosecuted at the state level using California state
    • I first found out about this a couple years ago when I bought a set of sheets on Overstock and an announcement about that showed up on my FB Wall (WTF?!). I haven't used Overstock since.

      Sure, it was a set of sheets, BFD. But maybe Overstock sells "Chinese exercise balls" too, and that could have been posted to some users' profiles.

      Lots of systems have an opt-in 'let people know about this thing you did' systems to tie into Facebook. That's all well and good, but Beacon was opt-out and not for the users'

  • by StreetStealth (980200) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:09PM (#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 Culture20 (968837)
      If only we had taken a page from Bugs Bunny and drawn the line on a cliff's edge.
    • 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,

      Try "Sure, their competitor still engages in exactly this sort of thing". Try enrolling in LinkedIn, and book a trip using tripIt...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • Remember, Google wants to index the world and make it public - Facebook wants to index the world and keep it private - unless you join the cult - ie become a member by revealing all things about yourself.

  • In order to have your Beacon puchases shown to your Facebook friends, you must:
    1) Sign up for Blockbuster or Yelp, etc
    2) Sign up for Facebook
    3) Specifically enable Beacon on Facebook
    4) During an event with Blockbuster or Yelp, say "YES I WANT TO SHOW THIS TO THE WORLD"

    Sure, lots of people might do steps 1 and 2 without thinking about it, but step 3 and 4 are actions that you have to go out of your way to do.

    When I made a review on Yelp, after the review was posted a new scree

  • I have a Facebook account that I occasionally use to keep in touch with friends and family. I also rent videos from Blockbuster and I've ordered from Overstock. I've never had anything show up on my Facebook page that said anything about my shopping activities. Is this some kind of opt-in program?

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