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Do they respect your privacy?

Date 11-23-2007



Social Networking Sites have made users more vulnerable to the incursions of pervasive online marketing.

Social Networking Sites (SNS) have gained immense popularity in recent times, especially among youths, and marketers have taken complete advantage by promoting their products on these sites. Only this time, they have actually intruded users' privacy.

One of the biggest SNS, Facebook Inc., aims at protecting its users' privacy. However, some of the members have rebelled against its "Facebook Beacon" program. Beacon is associated with around 40 e-commerce sites (like Fandango, eBay, Overstock, and Sony) and posts information about members' activity onto a section of the site called the "news feed." For example, a user might see what movie his/her friend rented from an online site through the news feed section, along with a photo of that friend and a movie-rental ad. Beacon does allow users to opt-out, but this option is "well-hidden."

MoveOn.org, an online activist group, has launched a paid ad campaign on Facebook against this breach of privacy. It has formed an online petition that protests against Facebook revealing users' online purchases. The full petition text reads "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."

Earlier this month, Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the advertising initiatives by MySpace and Facebook adequately protect consumer privacy. Both the consumer advocacy groups placed special emphasis on Facebook's Social Ads program's potential impact on children as Facebook is allegedly working with soda manufacturer Coca-Cola, reports newsfactor.com.


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 Federal Trade Commission  social networking sites  Center for Digital Democracy  Facebook  e-commerce  MySpace


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