Thursday, November 22, 2007

Is Facebook Ads Beacon a Privacy and Identity Theft Threat?

Facebook, the rapidly expanding social networking site, with their
announced new ad targeting system may be an invasion of consumer
privacy from the sharing of their user's purchases from at least 44
large websites.

Is Facebook Ads Beacon a Privacy and Identity Theft Threat

In a CNet interview with, purchases made with
participating online retailers will be automatically be shared with
anyone you are associated with on Facebook.

" that no Facebook user should have their private
purchases online posted for the entire world to see
without their explicit opted-in permission."

To provide readers an inside view into how invasive this information
sharing has become even with the initial announcement by Facebook,
consider the following listing of their initial group of their participating

  • Blockbuster
  • Busted Tees
  • CBS Interactive ( & Dotspotter)
  • Citysearch
  • CollegeHumor
  • eBay
  • ExpoTV
  • Gamefly
  • Hotwire
  • iWon
  • Joost
  • Kiva
  • Kongregate
  • LiveJournal
  • Live Nation
  • Mercantila
  • National Basketball Association
  • Pronto
  • Redlight
  • SeamlessWeb
  • Sony Online Entertainment LLC
  • Sony Pictures
  • STA Travel
  • The Knot
  • Travelocity
  • TripAdvisor
  • Travel Ticker
  • TypePad
  • viagogo
  • Vox
  • Yelp

In all fairness though, Facebook does provide consumers the
ability to opt-out of the information sharing. However, according
to MoveOn this privacy saving features is rendered effectively
useless by Facebook's implementation:

"The opt-out is very well hidden,"

"It basically pops up for a second and
then goes away, and it's on the bottom
of your screen when you're purchasing
on a totally unrelated Web site, so
you aren't even looking for it."

"...there's not a universal opt-out,
so members have to repeat the process
on each partner site."
"I think Facebook probably needs to
do a better job of warning people about it.."

We agree, Facebook could do a better job of warning consumers
of the dangers of information sharing - especially purchase
information over the internet.

So, until that happens we can share at least one consumer's
solution to the Facebook Beacon information sharing problem.

Our tip for today, at least for Firefox browsers, provides a way
to block the Facebook Ads system and their beacons from
reporting your information.

We recommend you consider that tool in your continuing
fight to prevent unnecessary invasions of your privacy -
especially those which can result in identity theft.


At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's to say Facebook will only stop with the current list of 44 eCommerce partners?

How do I know they aren't sending back any of my credit card information used in those purchases -or- just how secure is this Beacon code from being breached by hackers?

If even thing I've learned from your blog these past few years, identity theft is moreover a crime of greed. Greed on two parts, intertwined to make it possible in the first place.

Greedy companies who place a lower priority on securing consumer data across their entire computing path & then there is greedy identity theft criminals who have the motivation and the technical means to exploit those same company's inadequate security measures.

I, for one consumer, vote no against this Facebook ad beacon consortium as an unnecessary enablement of my data being shared without my benefit - and most likely detriment to potential fraudulent privacy invasions and or identity theft potential.

I'm signing the petition at

Thank you so very much Agent99 for exposing this danger.

At 2:19 AM, Blogger agent99 said...

Agreed, and many other consumers voicing their similar concerns prompted Facebook to subsequently change their policy.

According to numerous sources now readily available elsewhere across the web, Facebook has changed their ad beacon opt in policy to give the consumer the option to actually opt in (instead of opt out).

Score this round for us consumers.

At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Dawn said...

It's plain sickening to know that a site with the scale and reach of
Facebook has done this.

IMHO it reflects poorly on the integrity of the promoters.

At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Agent 99, there's more on this story.

It seems a woman is suing Blockbuster over the unauthorized release of her personal information due to the Facebook beacon ad's capability.


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