For those who don't remember, Facebook's Beacon was an advertisement service created by Facebook that kept track of user's online activities and then used them to sell products (violating all kinds of privacy along the way). Facebook users understandably objected and the idea was shelved.
Or so we thought...
Tom Kincaid, a top Facebook developer and blogger mentioned in the Facebook Developer Forums last night that Beacon seems to be rearing its ugly head once again.
According to Kincaid, he signed up for CBS Sportsline and got a Beacon-like pop-up, which he thinks may have used a Facebook cookie.
“I signed up on CBS Sportsline and joined fantasy football,” he wrote on the forum. “I got a pop-up on the bottom right. It looks like the old beacon stuff. I thought that didn’t work anymore, but it published a story to the homepage. I didn’t go through any kind of connect log in, it must have used the Facebook cookie somehow.”
I have to admit a bias here. I've never been a fan of "free" applications like Facebook. I like paying money for stuff. I know it sounds antithetical, but I do.
When something is free people tend to go with the attitude of "why question a good thing?" Which would be great if anything was actually free. But...
Nothing is really for free.
You have to pay for everything in life...Somehow. Sometimes that's with Ads, sometimes it's with fees, and sometimes it's by more nefarious means. But in the end nothing comes for free.
That's why I appreciate paying for stuff. There's no ambiguity. You ask for some money, I give you some money, we're done.
The exact opposite of that situation is what's going on with Facebook. Facebook doesn't know how to make money. They can't survive an attempt to charge a fee and they can't seem to make traditional ads work. So now they need to make money but can't seem to do it in a traditional way.
Enter the aforementioned "more nefarious means"
We don't know to what extent Facebook is bringing the original Beacon concepts back but I can almost guarantee you things will get worse as time goes along. The longer Facebook can't find a way to make money the more it gets into the "wounded animal trying to survive by any means necessary" mentality. That means looking for value in everything they have, including data collected from their users.
Facebook will not close it's doors just to protect their user's privacy.
What they will do is push every boundary of privacy until they find a way to save themselves. The question of how much they violate your privacy will be decided by how far they have to go to make a profit. That means every Facebook user is left with a big question mark as to what they'll eventually end up paying for the service.
I don't know about you, but had I known the cost of Facebook might be playing Russian Roulette with my privacy, I probably would have just given them a little money instead.