Why I closed my Facebook account

The NY Times has pub­lished a col­umn in its Bits Blog that sum­ma­rizes the evo­lu­tion of Face­book’s Bea­con adver­tis­ing pro­gram.

I think that it is more reveal­ing than focus­ing on the back­lash or peti­tions to actu­al­ly exam­ine the pro­gram itself, along with the sup­posed improve­ments made by Face­book along the way. The col­umn does a good job at point­ing out the small tweaks that seem to address raised con­cerns, while essen­tial­ly pre­sent­ing the same thing again, but with more labels.

It becomes the user’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to be ever watch­ful for Face­book’s unortho­dox info har­vest­ing. A bet­ter approach would have been a way to opt-in instead of hav­ing to con­stant­ly opt-out. There is cur­rent­ly no way to glob­al­ly say “no thanks” and be done with it, either.

A read­er com­ment from the site:

In the lat­est arti­cle in the NY Times, some ad exec­u­tives remark that users are being hyp­o­crit­i­cal because they reveal so much oth­er per­son­al infor­ma­tion. I think these ad exec­u­tives are idiots and miss­ing the point. Face­book users vol­un­teer the infor­ma­tion. They don’t want to pub­lish all the infor­ma­tion about their lives. The avail­abil­i­ty of choice is what makes a Face­book pro­file fun. Peo­ple can choose to reveal what they want. How­ev­er, this new Bea­con pro­gram cre­ates a huge inva­sion of pri­va­cy because it does­n’t real­ly offer that. To have to check the box each and every time you make a pur­chase undu­ly bur­dens the con­sumer.

This is not the first time that Face­book has earned a back­lash for its changes in pri­va­cy pol­i­cy and behav­ior. The com­pa­ny has been respon­sive to user con­cerns in the past, and quick­ly changed poli­cies to pro­tect the pri­va­cy (or the feel­ing of pri­va­cy) of its users. Hope­ful­ly, respon­si­bil­i­ty to its “cit­i­zens” will over­pow­er the need to sell this fea­ture as-is and lead to a more sen­si­ble approach.

I won’t hold my breath.

[update] Face­book is “rein­ing in some aspects” of Bea­con (nytimes.com).

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