Beacon: Zuckerberg brings the mea culpa

It’s like deja vu all over again, as baseball legend Yogi Berra reportedly said. Just as the Facebook news feed pushed the bounds of what users felt was appropriate in terms of privacy, and caused a backlash that eventually led to a mea culpa (Latin for “I screwed up big-time”) from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s new Beacon Web-tracking “feature” has done almost the same thing — except that it pushed the bounds of privacy as a way of serving advertisers’ interests, not users’ — and sure enough, here comes the mea culpa.

In addition to taking the blame for blowing it, Zuckerberg says that users will now be able to opt-out of the entire feature completely, with a simple click. And it seems as though Marky-Mark may have learned a thing or two about taking the heat: in the case of the news feed, the Facebook CEO at first tried to laugh off concerns and told people that they needed to chill out a little (I’m paraphrasing). This time he takes it on the chin right up front:

“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.”

Maybe all of these new features and the frenzy surrounding them are God’s way of teaching Mark Zuckerberg humility 🙂 In any case, I don’t want to say that I told you so, but I kind of saw this coming. I expected that Facebook would push the envelope of what people were comfortable with, and that as a result of that the company would change its new service.

As nice as it might be to see Mark taking the hit and apologizing, however, you have to wonder: how many more times are they going to get whacked for similar ventures? I think Om Malik has a good point: if Facebook is a social network, then why not ask users what they would or wouldn’t be willing to tolerate before you roll out a new service?


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