Facebook is a very popular social networking site, and social networks are the hot trend on the Internet right now. They are a magnet to the teen crowd, and even some older folks. In fact I believe my wife has a Facebook page, and she is no longer in her teens! Unfortunately you have to draw some lines in the sand. At what point does it cease to be social, and move into the invasive sector?

The new feature on Facebook, known as Beacon may have crossed that line, and privacy advocates are worried. Beacon will alert your Facebook friends of what items you are buying on-line. This maybe fine if the purchase is beads and baubles, but may not be a feature that you want if you are buying more intimate items.

Facebook seem to have made a fundamental error in judgment. The Beacon feature rather than being ‘opt in’ is ‘opt out’. Some reports are coming in saying that the ‘opt out’ is easy to miss. Facebook on the other hand are claiming that users are given two opportunities to avoid the feature.

Clearly this Beacon feature is an attempt to make money. Whats the angle? Well if you buy something, maybe your friends will want to buy the same thing. What is less that clear though is the mechanism that Facebook are using to track this information. How do they know that you are on eBay or Amazon? In my simple mind this smacks of spyware.

One can only guess how long it is going to be before some enterprising phisher or malware purveyor finds a way to exploit this less than useful feature.

Simon Barrett


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