In 2007, Facebook started a tracker known as Beacon, as part of their advertisement system, to allow advertisement and user-specific data to be imported from other marketing partners into Facebook. Within a year, this controversial service was hit with a class action lawsuit. Are you aware that your surfing/purchasing tendencies from advertising partners were being tracked?
Beacon struck controversy nearly on its release due to privacy concerns. According to PCWorld.com, a security researcher originally blew the alarm on the tracker, which went beyond the tracking scope of what anyone considered likely at the time.
Also from PCWorld’s article “Of particular concern is that users aren’t informed that data on their activities at these sites is flowing back to Facebook, nor given the option to block that information from being transmitted, Berteau said in an interview.” This is a HUGE problem. Infact, arguably this is the main reason FOR the lawsuit. Majority of all users were not aware they were being tracked by Beacon. Were you aware of what Beacon was? Most weren’t. User data belongs to the user and to the site that generated it. Passing it around is considered by most users as a breech of confidence.
The FAQ on the settlement web site says: “If you choose to do nothing, and remain in the settlement class you will be legally bound by the settlement,” and “By doing nothing, you will be giving up the right to sue Facebook and the other Defendants over claims related to or arising out of the Beacon program.”
Because Beacon was used in conjunction with advertising partners such as Fandango, Blockbuster, Hotwire, Gamefly and more, all of these companies are named in the lawsuit. When the desire for increased marketing ability gets ahead of the rights of the consumer, lawsuits like these are necessary to protect the consumer.
After a long drawn out debate over this lawsuit, Facebook agreed to shut down Beacon and donate $9.5M to settle the suit without admission of any wrongdoing. If you want to learn more about Beacon, at least as far as the settlement and your rights go, I suggest you check out the settlement web site.