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Facebook takes back Beacon

A month after implementing a new ad system, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has apologized to users and given them the option to opt out of the system, which is known as Beacon.

Beacon tracks a Facebook user’s actions around the web, broadcasting information such as product purchases or signing up for services to the user’s friends. According to the New York Times, Zuckerberg apologized through a blog post after “weeks of criticism from members, privacy groups and advertisers.?

The beginning of the post follows:

“About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web. We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. While I am disappointed with our mistakes, we appreciate all the feedback we have received from our users.?

One week after changing Beacon to an opt-in system (instead of an if-you-ignore-this-notice-you’re-part-of-the-program system), Zuckerberg offered an option to completely turn off Beacon.

The number of users that were disappointed with the newest Facebook feature was clear by a petition about Beacon; the Times reported that “more than 50,000 Facebook users signed a petition about Beacon that was initiated by the political group Moveon.org Civic Action.?

The privacy issues do not apply solely to users, either: findings from Stefan Berteau, a senior research engineer at Computer Associates' Threat Research Group showed that Beacon also tracks users in its third-party partner sites, according to the Washington Post. Bertau also discovered that Beacon tracks users even when they’re not logged in to Facebook or have opted out of the feature—that user’s actions can be tied back specifically to him or her.