Facebook Changes Beacon to How it Should Have Been Designed in the First Place

As expected, Facebook has announced changes to their controversial Beacon advertising system where users’ off-site purchasing activities can be automatically displayed in the Facebook feed. The New York Times reports these changes:

  • Stories about actions users take on external websites will continue to be presented to users at the top of their News Feed the next time they return to Facebook. These stories will now always be expanded on their home page so they can see and read them clearly.
  • Users must click on “O.K.” in a new initial notification on their Facebook home page before the first Beacon story is published to their friends from each participating site. We recognize that users need to clearly understand Beacon before they first have a story published, and we will continue to refine this approach to give users choice.
  • If a user does nothing with the initial notification on Facebook, it will hide after some duration without a story being published. When a user takes a future action on a Beacon site, it will reappear and display all the potential stories along with the opportunity to click “O.K.” to publish or click “remove” to not publish.
  • Users will have clear options in notifications to either delete or publish. No stories will be published if users navigate away from their home page. If they delay in making this decision, the notification will hide and they can make a decision at a later time.
  • Clicking the “Help” link next to the story will take users to a full tutorial that explains exactly how Beacon works, with screenshots showing each step in the process.

These changes are in addition to those made earlier to improve the notifications on partner sites as follows:

  • Users were sometimes moving away from a page before a notification could be fully displayed. We changed the process so that we confirm the full display of the notification before any information can be sent back to a user’s Facebook account.
  • The notification appears more rapidly and is more clearly displayed.

These are the right kind of changes, but if Facebook really was committed to its first core principle that “You should have control over your personal information,” they would have designed Beacon in a value-conscious way in the first place.

One wonders when this lesson will be learned.

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