Intimate Shopping
December 23rd, 2007

“Information,” the apostles of cyberspace have been singing for more than a decade, “wants to be free.” Well, maybe your information does. But in late November, the social networking Web site Facebook discovered that many of its 58 million members don’t feel that way. The New York Times reports.

In early November, Facebook’s 23-year-old C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, rolled out an advertising program called Beacon. It would track users onto the sites of Facebook’s commercial partners — Coca-Cola, the N.B.A., The New York Times and Verizon, among others — and keep theirfriends posted about what they were doing and buying there.

Did it ever. A Massachusetts man bought a diamond ring for Christmas for his wife from overstock.com and saw his discounted purchase announced to 720 people in his online network. What if it hadn’t been for his wife? What if he had been buying acne cream? Pornography? A toupee? You could go on. Researchers at Computer Associates, an information-technology firm, discovered that Beacon was more invasive than announced. MoveOn.org started a petition movement against Beacon that rallied 75,000 Facebook subscribers.


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