Has Facebook Just Repackaged Beacon? Does Anyone Care?

Apologies for beating a dead horse but it has been more than a week since Facebook launched several major changes in which it operates, highlighted by a huge move in making more data public, and how third-party Web sites are able to personalize content based on information they call pull from Facebook.

To be honest, the reaction has been far less muted than I expected. Even though Facebook introduced significant changes in how the data of its 400 million users can be leveraged by Facebook and Web sites taking advantage of the new API, one of the only groups with major concerns is Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

It’s shocking because if you’re a Facebook user that visits another Web site, they’ll already have information about you. Sure, it means a more personalized experience but there’s a price to be paid, which is that your data is being increasingly shared. To be clear, more of your Facebook information is going to be made public.

To me, the benefits of this new data arrangement are skewed in a major way in Facebook’s favour, while wrapped in a nice, tidy package of convenience and personalized for users. For Facebook, the ability to have stronger links with Web sites means more ways to generate revenue.

This is a crucial consideration for a company whose growth and the financial resources to support this growth has out-paced its ability to generate revenue. Despite its success, Facebook finds itself scrambling to generate more money because, let’s face it, its advertising on Facebook is a high-volume, low-margin business.

When you put Facebook’s new data strategy in context, it’s hard to believe that so many people have simply accepted it while Beacon received such a negative reaction that Facebook was forced to retreat. In many ways, Facebook’s new approach is just a re-invention of Beacon packaged as “personalization”.

More check out these articles and blog posts:

- Facebook Applications Raise Privacy Concerns (Toronto Star)
- Marc Meyer’s “We care about our privacy. We just didn’t realize how much social networks didn’t.”
- A Must-Do: Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings (Mark Evans Tech)

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