Zuckerberg Offers Apology, Global Opt-Out for Beacon

Facebook users now have the ability to opt out of its controversial data sharing and behavior tracking initiative completely.

Mark Zuckerberg announced the new control, which can be found here, as part of a lengthy post on the Facebook blog in which he apologizes for the way the Beacon program was conceived and rolled out to users. Salient quotes:

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…

The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends. It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share.

The whole Beacon episode — from radical product launch to privacy outcry to sober apology — has been remarkably similar to the progression of events that accompanied Facebook’s introduction of the News Feed last year. Indeed, the combination of reckless product launch and considered response appears to be a Facebook trademark. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer put it to me last week, “What they learned was that if you put something out there, people complain about it, you fix it and then people embrace it,” he said. “You listen to your audience. If you solve or address their issues, people will know you’re listening.”

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