Commentary

Just An Online Minute... Facebook Continues To Face Privacy Challenges

In an interview set to air Sunday night, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg told "60 Minutes" that Facebook's controversial Beacon program "is going to be a really good thing."

Zuckerberg, who acknowledged last month that the company made mistakes in rolling out Beacon, insists in the interview that its basic premise -- harnessing users to endorse brands -- is sound. "What would you rather see?" he asks in the interview. "A banner ad from Bloomingdale's or that one of your friends bought a scarf?"

Frankly, however, it's hard to imagine that too many Facebook users want information about their friends' scarf purchases pushed to them on the site.

What's more, while Facebook dealt with some of the initial privacy concerns about the feature, others remain. At launch, Facebook had Beacon turned on by default, so that it automatically shared information about members' purchases unless people opted out. After four weeks of protests, Facebook retreated and made the program opt-in only. The company also enabled a global opt-out, so people who know they don't want to share this kind of information can opt out once and for all.

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But Beacon, as well as the company's new Social Ads -- which tells members who among their friends has signed on as fans of particular companies -- still pose other concerns. Both programs transform members into brand advocates, without offering any compensation. In the past, some courts have said that harnessing people for that purpose without paying them infringes on their right to control how their image is used, which is a type of privacy violation.

In fact, two privacy advocacy groups, the Center for Digital Democracy and Electronic Privacy Information Center, are still planning to file a lawsuit against Facebook.

While Zuckerberg might be touting Facebook's new ad regime, it's clear that the company still faces some challenges in its plan to use members as marketers.

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