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Social Networks The Courts Privacy

Facebook Axes "Beacon," Donates $9.5M To Settle Suit 71

Posted by kdawson
from the all-your-data-are-you-know-the-rest dept.
alphadogg sends in a Network World piece that begins "Facebook has agreed to shut down a program that sparked a lawsuit alleging privacy violations, and set up a $9.5M fund for a nonprofit foundation that will support online privacy, safety, and security. The lawsuit centers around Facebook's Beacon program, which let third-party Web sites distribute 'stories' about users to Facebook. Beacon was launched in November 2007 and less than a year later plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit 'alleging that Facebook and its affiliates did not give users adequate notice and choice about Beacon and the collection and use of users' personal information.' ... Facebook never admitted wrongdoing but as part of a proposed settlement the company began sending notices to Facebook users this week. The settlement provides no compensation directly to users who receive the notice. Facebook users can opt out of the settlement, and should do so if they wish to pursue further legal action against Facebook related to the Beacon program. 'If you choose to do nothing and remain in the settlement class, you will be legally bound by the settlement,' a FAQ on the settlement Web site says. "By doing nothing, you will be giving up the right to sue Facebook and the other Defendants over claims related to or arising out of the Beacon program.'" Other defendents included Blockbuster, Fandango, Overstock.com, Zappos.com, and Gamefly. Neither the article nor the settlement site mentions what part, if any, they play in the settlement.
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Facebook Axes "Beacon," Donates $9.5M To Settle Suit

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  • Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dontPanik (1296779) <ndeselms&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:46PM (#30372750)
    It would be totally silly if someone was to sue Facebook over this.
    Yeah, they do have fault in that they didn't design Beacon better so that 3rd parties wouldn't be able to trick users, but I just feel like people want a reason to sue, sue, sue.
    I mean, it has been around for two years, and if a 3rd party site uses it, I believe that you'll notice, because it will show up in Facebook.

    And truthfully? I loved this feature. I would order out to restaurants and at the end it would be like "do you want to share this over Facebook" and I'd be like "Shit why not!" and I'd get a laugh out of my friends criticizing or commending me on my food choice.
  • by PyroMosh (287149) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:50PM (#30372770) Homepage

    I don't use myspace, facebook, etc. but perhaps someone can enlighten me. Why do people who publish info in the internet about themselves somehow feel entitled to some sense of privacy in doing so? It's counter-intuitive on it's face, at best.

    The fact that it's Facebook that was providing hooks through an API to push info out to third parties is just a matter of efficiency. If the data's there, either you have it walled off for your eyes only, (in which case, why "publish" at all?) or it's open through some method to third parties anyway.

    Why would one go publishing info about themselves that they didn't want out there?

    This strikes me as panic for panic's sake. What am I missing?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:58PM (#30372824)

    Some info people choose to publish. Other info people didn't choose to publish but it was published for them, hence the problem. I use Facebook and have some info on it, but just because I visited a website I always visit doesn't mean I want my actions on that website shared with everyone who can see my profile.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:22PM (#30373026)
    Because of the separation between online and reality. For example, your Facebook is more in the reality section, you generally only accept people you know, can keep a tight control on your profile, etc. On the other hand, you have your online profiles, things such as perhaps your /. account, various online games, forums, etc. And most of the time without technical interference they stay separate. I have little doubt that someone could identify me between accounts by looking at my word choice, writing styles, opinions and such on /. but no one has any motivation to do that. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of /. users, millions of other Facebooks, millions of MySpaces, million of blogs, etc. the odds that someone could wade through all of those without the accounts giving away the e-mail address or the accounts having similar usernames is very slim unless someone has -lots- of time on their hands. Plus, "publish" may only require one or two clicks, someone with very short access to a computer with Facebook logged in could seriously damage someone's reputation by publishing a few links that are using Facebook's API.
  • by trentblase (717954) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:33PM (#30373082)
    My point is that an email purportedly from Foo, that never once contains the string foo.com in body or headers, sets off my phishing alarm. While this particular email was legitimate, I think it is poor practice for Facebook to send official mail from facebookmail.com, when facebook.com, mail.facebook.com, official.facebook.com, etc. are more intuitive and save me the trouble of a whois lookup. I have this problem with Citibank as well, which tries to direct me to accountonline.com to check my credit card statement.
  • Re:Silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nacturation (646836) * <[nacturation] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:37PM (#30373108) Journal

    And truthfully? I loved this feature. I would order out to restaurants and at the end it would be like "do you want to share this over Facebook" and I'd be like "Shit why not!" and I'd get a laugh out of my friends criticizing or commending me on my food choice.

    Yeah, that's cool. But what about the person who rented the DVD AIDS and HIV Answers [blockbuster.com] from Blockbuster and had that rental show up on their Facebook profile without their knowledge or permission?

  • That was fast (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:40PM (#30373138) Homepage
    Sounded like a bad an intrusive idea when it was launched.. glad FB only took 2 years to figure that out.. It took MS a lot longer than that to axe their passport crap.
  • by trawg (308495) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @11:20PM (#30373766) Homepage

    ..if they'd just given that $9.5 million to the EFF.

  • by SashaMan (263632) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @11:37PM (#30373846)

    If you read the settlement carefully, it says that 1/3 of the settlement goes to the lawyers. Our legal system is such a fucking scam.

    Over the past decade I've been a member of the class in about 10 class action lawsuits. The majority of the time I don't even bother to collect - filling out the paperwork isn't worth it to get a 5 dollar coupon. I guess I've sure made a lot of lawyers rich, though.

  • by Eskarel (565631) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @03:18AM (#30374850)

    The thing is that there's a middle area between publishing nothing about yourself and publishing everything about yourself. Beacon sort of pushed a little too close to everything for some people. I use facebook to keep in touch with my friends overseas, it's useful for that purpose, and I will message them or write on their walls or whatever I deem appropriate whatever information I want to share with them. The key here is "I WANT". There are things I'm happy to publish, there are things I don't want to publish. I'm happy to announce to my friends(and pretty much everyone on my facebook is actually a real friend because I don't give a crap about friend counts IRL or on facebook) some of the events in my life I want to share with them. I don't really need them to know exactly what I bought from that on-line retailer or what I've just done in a video game. Aside from it being none of their business, I don't care what other people are doing and so I don't believe they should care what I'm doing.

    Just because some idiots share every second of their lives on facebook, or myspace or twitter or their blog or whatever doesn't mean that everyone who uses those services does.

  • by hopkid (756933) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:05AM (#30375430)
    I presume that many slashotters use facebook & are pro privacy. They see ./ as a forum to express their views and impact the social viewpoint to their favor. This is good, even though it leads to many argumentative discussions that devolve into semantic arguments. This is a form of social consciousness.

    Personally, the only thing that I can say is that sometimes I value my privacy more than my social connectivity. During these times, I tend to add content to my facebook page. At other times, I remove content from said page because of privacy concerns. And I share these concerns with my friends through discussions and debates. I do this because I have mutable convictions, as I'm constantly learning (and forgetting) things. Overall, I think facebook is useful, despite its privacy drawbacks. (I feel this way too about using gas power, despite its environmental drawbacks, even though I feel the urge to talk about its negative impacts.)

    And I guess the reason I don't mind my engaging in both sides of the coin is that in the long term, I feel my engagement allows me to bring about positive changes unattainable to those shun engagement (even though they can contribute in other ways).

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