Facebook, Can You Hear Me Now? Peepin’ Is Creepin’ Me Out!

moveonkeyhole.jpgWhen our Age of Conversation* co-authors rallied on Facebook to form a group for book sales to benefit Variety, the children’s charity, I joined in the fun, despite my initial hesitance of adding yet another social media profile into my daily media mix, especially one mining digital data for ads.

Since Facebook is a huge draw for teens, I decided I’d better fully immerse myself rather than report peripherally so I’d know the ins and outs well. (much like virtual worlds, you don’t really ‘get it’ until you’re ‘in it’) I still prefer Ning, but the giants (MySpace, FB, etc.) house the kids, so I need to speak the language.

Facebook’s become a blog peer hangout spot too, distilling relevant feeds into handy info-capsules tagged by topic, and mobilizing friends instantaneously with a click. (Excellent for poking kindred spirits in the backside to get off one’s duff & “Do Something” when called upon) Alas, the new privacy issues just ratcheted up my discomfort level big time.

See articles on the Facebook/MoveOn campaign (L.A. Times article here) and micro-targeted ads with copious quantities of behavioral profiling, plus CNet news discussing the third-party partnerships & privacy deals and it’s enough to make your head spin…If I want someone to know what movie I’m seeing, or what book I’m buying, I’ll tell them!

I don’t need an automatic social ad ‘beacon’ to enlighten folks via virtual feed…Icky. Sharing info is up to me, not you, Facebook…Keep your mitts off my personal life!

Thankfully, I’m not alone in finding the ‘opt out’ vs. ‘opt in’ privacy default brazenly offensive.

In six days, over 25,000 people (including ME!) (update 11/28: 45,000!) are now part of the “Facebook, stop invading my privacy” group, a well-deserved snapback using the fast acting ‘sneeze’ of viral e-blasts to send a clarion call to the powers-that-be that ‘this is NOT freakin’ okay.’

Here’s how to remove the Facebook beacon:

For Firefox users, Download Squad and Idea Shower offer great posts (new beacon update via IdeaShower here) on how to block the beacon using a handy add-on tool to deter info sharing. (use ‘BlockSite’ and remove the entire Facebook ‘beacon’)

But why should kids have to troubleshoot this in the first place?

Shouldn’t their privacy be a given? Shouldn’t all of us be able to use social media without being data-mined by some opportunistic busybody?

Usurping kids’ agency by putting the onus on them to constantly update their control settings, seal off data they don’t want shared and keep track of new loopholes is a huge brain drain and as the kids would say, a ‘time suck.’

Plus, it gives marketers a free hallpass to find new ways to exploit the system, while forcing kids to keep current with every nuance.

Some kids buy into the rhetoric about Facebook simply enabling friends to add to their ‘transparency,’ by ‘sharing’ choices ‘authentically’ with peers.

Balderdash. This is about marketing. Period.

Let’s get real, who has the time to monitor and track every layer of minutiae on multiple social media sites when ‘broadcasting your preferences’ is the default setting. Bleh.

web-20.gifCenter for Digital Democracy has already filed this FTC complaint calling for action on behavioral profiling.

Good for them…I hope they take it even further. Someone needs to put the power back in the hands of the people…not the money-handlers, the government or the market researchers.

The CDD is all about Web 2.0 in the public interest, covering privacy protection, corporate accountability and network neutrality in the digital sphere…We’ve written about their work here to highlight their DigitalAds.org website which is a fabulous parenting primer on kids’ marketing exposure for media literacy online.

Again, I’m NOT against advertising…

But frankly, my personal choices for gifts, the arts, or sites I’m surfing are none of Facebook’s dang ‘bidness’—nor my friends’ business for that matter.

I say MoveOn!’

facebook-logo.jpgHere’s the official petition for all privacy concerned citizens. (I personally wish there were a rebranding of the MoveOn site to skew centrist/nonpartisan. Objectivity is key in media literacy/deconstruction, and privacy protection is not a ‘red/blue’ issue, it’s a ‘purple’ one…blending universal concerns!)

Now, in a total tweak of Facebook irony, I’m about to e-blast this privacy protection siren to my friends (virtual and otherwise) without asking.

Why is this ‘Ok’ yet Facebook’s ‘no thanks/opt out’ policy is NOT? Social media, by very definition of the word is just that. Social.

It’s not defined as ‘corporate media’ or ‘advertising media’ or ‘make a buck on the backs of your friends’ media.

Anyone asking to ‘friend’ me should either know ME (or the Shaping Youth site!) well enough to recognize they’re gonna get an earful when there’s an injustice staking a foothold that needs unearthed, uprooted, and stomped on to tamp down the soil into a more nourishing, thriving environment.

As a tried and true passionista on some of these key media issues, those that have read my profile know good and well there are certain hot buttons that send me soaring….privacy is one of ‘em.

You’re bound to get pinged if something requires action. If you’re my ‘friend’ you KNOW that.

That’s much different than Facebook sending out an automatic feed to your profile telling everyone what game you were just playing, for how long, and tracking your site visits hither and yon. Ewwww….that’s just cyber-stalker-style creepy!

dog-bone.jpgAdvertisers, do NOT (repeat, do not) try to usurp public agency, or you will find most dogs in this playground not only bark but bite…

We’ll all nip you in the backside with an e-blast of compadrés that not only embrace this ‘free will’ philosophy, but will own it, write the code for it, tag it, and take full leadership in the techno-arena of protecting it, leaving marketers in the wake.

I’m not trying to finger-wag, I’m simply saying I’m not buying the ‘you can always opt out’ mindset WHATSOEVER…For starters…

Facebook still holds onto your data, even if you click ‘no thanks.’

That’s creepy in itself and WAY too ‘big brother’ for me. C’mon media/marketing colleagues. Let’s use some common sense here. Just because you ‘can’ doesn’t mean you ‘should.’ We’re all busy people…

Do YOU have time to visit umpteen sites reading the fine print of how much of your data is being released? Didn’t think so. Therefore, “leave it.”

Like a dog with a bone, I know marketers find Facebook data mining of kids like a flavorful treat to acquire and parade around with the splendor that you ‘have it’ and are fully capable of chewing up, holding onto, or sharing/spitting out the data to others. Don’t.

You’re itchin’ to do it…I get that. But here’s the thing…

Kids can decide for themselves what they do and don’t want to share.

It’s not your place. It’s theirs.

If advertisers go against the wishes of the public, don’t be surprised if kids turn into unleashed guard dogs, attacking with a full force bite, and annoying fleas, ticks and parasites to make marketers retreat. If they don’t bury your brand on the first hit, they’ll infest it until it’s weak, sickly, and ill…Then, tell ‘Facebook friends’ to do the same.

Not pretty…

You created this media beast. Own it. Respect it. And set it free.

*Age of Conversation Book Note (asterisk from first paragraph)

As of 11/30 our Age of Conversation book will increase in price by moving to Amazon. (from $16.95 to $29.95, so if you want the lesser unit cost for the paperback, prior to retailer markup snag it now) Reminder, we don’t make a penny, and the kids’ cut for the charity will stay consistent. But if you want it for less, hit the Lulu store now! I’ll be posting more on these developments soon.

Visual Credit: Web 2.0 graphic via CDD, Dog bone: JanetsCreativePillows.com.

A Few Related Resources/Fresh Finds

Marketing VOX: Facebook Adds Digg Feature to News Feed (eek, this is more invasive than I thought!) Also this CNET story ‘caught you red-handed’ I linked to previously.

New York Times: Are Facebook’s Social Ads Illegal?

Consumerist: Facebook Ruins Christmas? (interesting comment section)

TechCrunch Screenshots (showing the feed) —Note Comment #103: “Nov. 30 declared ‘International leaving Facebook Day’—hmn…I might join ’em…”

NYTimes: The Caucus/Political Blog: MoveOn Takes On Facebook

L.A. Times: Latest Target of MoveOn: Facebook



  1. In case you’re not on Facebook, here’s the message that went out to the Facebook group, to give you a feel for how FAST mobilization can take place with a click.

    “Petition: Facebook, stop invading my privacy! CNN did a story on this group! See below:”

    “Matt in New York already knows what his girlfriend got him for Christmas…

    Why? Because a new Facebook feature automatically shares books, movies, or gifts you buy online with everyone you know on Facebook. Without your consent, it pops up in your News Feed–a huge invasion of privacy. (See demo below.)


    Petition: “Facebook must respect my privacy. They should not tell my friends what I buy on other sites–or let companies use my name to endorse their products–without my explicit permission.”

    Sign here:

    Then, tell your friends about this group. A lot of us love Facebook–but they need to take privacy seriously.

    Facebook encourages companies to get “word-of-mouth promotion for your business” to “millions” by using the new Beacon feature that makes this happen. But the rights of Facebook users get left behind.

    Facebook says its users can “opt out” of having their private purchases reported to all their friends. But that option is easily missed. And even if you do “opt out” for purchases on one site, it doesn’t apply to purchases on another site–you have to keep opting out over and over again. The obvious solution is to switch to an “opt in” policy, like most other applications on Facebook.

    In 2006, when Facebook users protested policies that violated privacy, Facebook’s founder admitted, “We really messed this one up…we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away.” The problem got fixed. (Link below.)

    SEND A SIGNAL TO FACEBOOK TODAY BY SIGNING THE PETITION! Then tell your friends about this group. The petition is here:



    1) Invite your Facebook friends to join this group!

    2) Click the “Share+” button on the right to post the group to your profile!

    3) Sign the petition to Facebook:

  2. Also, to give you a feel for the rapidfire speed of this mobilization, the NEWS from the group’s wall charts the following numbers from date it began to today:

    “11/20/07 – 1 member
    11/20/07 – 5,000 members
    11/22/07 – 10,000 members
    11/23/07 – 15,000 members
    11/25/07 – 20,000 members
    11/26/07 – 25,000 members!

    De-activate Facebook Beacon on your computer! (only for Firefox users)

    Give feedback to Facebook here:

    Press questions about this group? Click here:

  3. One more just found via Adrants, from the Freezing Hot blog, which details U.S. stats on who is really ON Facebook…Looks like fewer teens than I’d expected, and more 18-24s…

    Still…relevant for all.


    Coming soon…a snapshot on MySpace by comparison…weigh in if you have relevant data/links already…

  4. This just in from Ryan Oberlin of the Facebook Group on how to block in IE:

    “Ryan Oberlin (Luzerne CC) wrote
    at 8:44am Want to put a stop to Facebook Beacon (the service that posts your shopping activities)? There is a way to “Opt-Out” and it will put a stop to Facebook collecting anything Beacon. The answer lies in a blockfile:

    In IE:

    download ie7pro (www.ie7pro.com)
    once installed go to IE’s Tools menu
    select IE7Pro Prefs
    select AD Blocker
    in Rules type: http://www.facebook.com/beacon/*
    Filter Type is: URL BLOCK FILTER

    in Firefox:
    Download and Install the BlockSite (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3145) plugin for Firefox.
    After restarting Firefox select ‘Add-ons’ from the Tools menu.
    Click the ‘Options’ button on the BlockSite extension
    Click the ‘Add’ button
    Enter http://www.facebook.com/beacon/* into the input box
    Click ‘OK’
    Click ‘OK’ again and you are good to go.

  5. Great Commentary on the Consumerist blog…with FB’s e-mail cust. svc. response to this frustrated user trying to BLOCK the beacon…

    Consumerist blog: BY SPITFIRE101 AT 11/22/07 07:23 PM

    “I sent them a rather annoyed email asking why there wasnt an “opt out of this feature – completely” option within the privacy settings; the stories have to be sent to facebook before you have the option to opt out of them, and if you just close the notifications they’ll post anyway. this is what they sent back to me:


    Facebook is now affiliated with a variety of websites, all of whom can, with your permission, send the actions you take on their sites back into Facebook. These actions will appear in your Mini-Feed and may appear in the News Feeds of your friends.

    If you are logged in to Facebook and take an action on an affiliated site, the website will alert you that it has a story it would like to send to your Facebook profile. You can then choose to take the following actions:

    1. You can click the ‘Learn More’ link to find out more about that story or edit your privacy settings for these external stories.
    2. You can click the ‘This isn’t me’ link if the Facebook account does not match the person using the external site. In this case, Facebook will never publish the story or otherwise share any information with the user’s friends on Facebook.
    3. You can click ‘No Thanks’ in which case Facebook will never publish that story or otherwise share any information with your friends on Facebook.
    4. You can click ‘close’ or simply ignore the notification in which case the story will be sent to Facebook, but will not be published on the site. Next time you navigate to the Facebook Home page after interacting with an affiliate site, you’ll receive a second reminder that the affiliate website is about to publish a story on your behalf. If you select ‘See More’ and then click the ‘X’ next to any story, the story will not be published. If you click ‘close’ or navigate away from your home page, the external story will then be published in your Mini-Feed and potentially the News Feeds of your friends.

    Please keep in mind that affiliate websites never have access to your profile information, nor does Facebook receive any personal data about you from an affiliate site. Let us know if you have any further questions regarding the privacy settings for this feature.

    Thanks for contacting Facebook,
    Customer Support Representative

    Gee, that really helped. thanks, Joey. ”

    sheesh…see what I mean?

    The onus is on EACH OF US to ‘police’ our OWN social media sites to ensure our privacy—Who has the time?

    Can’t (shouldn’t?) media/mktg. folks just BEHAVE and do the right thing by giving US the choices of what we want to share?

  6. More, more, more…

    Jeff Chester of the CDD is running a series on the privacy/behavioral targeting issue on his blog…


    He names many of the firms (like Nugg.ad.ag and imediaconnection: http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/17427.asp
    which quickly give you a snapshot of how substantial/pervasive this issue will be.

    Talk about ‘outgunned’…do we REALLY think the general public (and kids!) can keep up with sealing the privacy holes if the marketers make it so hard to OPT OUT?!?!??!

    Here are Jeff’s mini-posts from yesterday:

    “It’s long been a concern that so many news organizations—or their parent entities—have embraced behavioral targeting (and so many other types of online marketing techniques) without clear disclosure to users, readers and viewers. There should be stories explaining what’s going on, exposing the techniques used that threaten privacy, analysis on the implications to journalism, editorials supporting reform, etc. We have covered some of these issues in our book and on this blog. But as a reminder, we run an excerpt from a Tacoda want ad for online sales manager: “TACODA®, Inc. (www.tacoda.com) is the world’s largest and most advanced behavioral targeting advertising network… Major US media partners include Dow Jones, The New York Times Company, NBC Universal, … [and] USAToday.com.”—
    All the news that fit to click, indeed.”

    November 27th, 2007 at 5:40 am
    The Future of Behavioral Targeting Regulation—First in a [very long] series

    Now that the EU’s Article 29 Working Group has announced plans to investigate behavioral targeting as part of its 2008 workplan, advocates and regulators from both sides of the Atlantic can build the case for meaningful safeguards. The goal should be maximum privacy protection. It’s interesting to see the response coming from European-based behavioral targeting firms, such as nugg.ad.ag. In an article for the UK-based imediaconnection trade report, nugg.ad’s co-founder removes the use of IP addresses from the targeters arsenal, writing that “… even IP addresses has no place in targeting.” That will come to a surprise to many in the online marketing industry!

    Nugg.ad is engaged in a range of targeting efforts that require the scrutiny of data regulators. But just in case you thought their rejection of IP address targeting made them a worthy of a privacy prize, you would be mistaken. In the same article, the nugg.ad executive describes the new generation of data that can be mined by marketers [our emphasis]: “Web 2.0 offers a better option – user-generated content, be it through word, sound or image, which is fitted with ‘tags’. These community recommendations lift contact management to a new level. By using targeting technology that can be applied flexibly, you can develop completely novel approaches and exploit untapped potential.”—The Article 29 group will surely be working.” –Jeff Chester/CDD.

  7. Whoa!!!!!!!! Just checked the facebook group…new numbers:

    11/26/07 – 25,000 members
    11/27/07 – 35,000 members
    11/28/07 – 40,000 members!

    yowza…social media ROCKS (as my daughter would say!)

  8. New privacy update for FB per MediaPost:

    “Facebook has added new privacy tools that give members the ability to decide which other users can view photos, phone numbers and other personal information.

    Facebook also recently started allowing people to opt out of SocialAds, which tell members which of their friends have signed on as fans of particular marketers. One of the complaints about that program is that it violates users’ right of publicity — a variation of privacy rights — by harnessing their name and image for commercial purposes. Users still can’t opt out of receiving the ads, but can at least veto the use of their own image in product endorsements.

    Considering that the site has been plagued with privacy complaints since at least September 2006, when it introduced RSS news feeds to inform members of changes to their friends’ profiles, not to mention the debacle of Beacon — a program that told members about their friends’ purchases — any move to enhance privacy can only help the company’s reputation.

    With the new controls, it also appears the site is increasingly taking on the traits of an e-mail channel or other utility. For instance, if users want to share a photo with just two or three people, they can now upload it to the site and use the privacy controls to grant access to just those people, rather than e-mailing it to them. Additionally, Facebook is taking another step in the utility direction with a new IM program, set to launch in the next two weeks…”

  9. Found your web page on bing . Awesome post and what a ace web log you have. Will stop by here soon.

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