Facebook partners quiet on Beacon fallout

Facebook partners quiet on Beacon fallout

Many of the companies that were part of the launch of Facebook's new advertising platform intend to continue, despite privacy concerns.

Regarding the tracking of non-Facebook users, Greer said that he considers it similar to what many online ad networks do, specifically those designed to do behavioral targeting of users. He is comfortable with Facebook's pledge that it deletes the data it gets about the actions of logged-off Facebook users, former Facebook members and nonmembers.

Some companies, like Six Apart, say their deployments of Beacon are unique, and thus avoid privacy issues. "The way we implemented Beacon on [blog publishing services] TypePad and LiveJournal that makes it truly opt-in is that until the user checks the box that opts them into the program, we don't insert the Facebook Beacon JavaScript into the page that appears when a user saves a new entry," said Michael Sippey, vice president of products at Six Apart, which runs TypePad and LiveJournal, in an e-mail exchange. For users who don't opt in, nothing changes on their sites, so "there is no chance of any data being sent to Facebook," he said. Six Apart sold LiveJournal last week to Russian online media company SUP.

EBay also said its implementation, scheduled for next year's first quarter, will avoid privacy issues. EBay will not embed any Facebook code onto eBay pages and only applies Beacon to selling activity, said Usher Lieberman, a spokesman for eBay. An eBay seller may opt in to the program so that their for-sale items will appear on their Facebook newsfeed, he said.

Other sites that were part of the original Beacon launch are somewhat cautious, if not optimistic. "Our position right now is that we think the Beacon program has tremendous potential in advancing social networking," Dan Toporek, a spokesman for Travelocity, said in an e-mail. "We will be evaluating consumer opinions towards the new user choices and privacy protections to determine when we're ready to launch the feature." He said that widely repeated reports saying that Travelocity had pulled out of the program in reaction to the privacy uproar were incorrect.

"We have not launched Beacon. It was on briefly in a very limited capacity during some testing, but was never fully turned on across our site," Toporek said via e-mail.

Another travel company, STA Travel, plans to wait to use Beacon until the latest changes to the program are made. "In light of Facebook's recent decision to update and improve the Beacon product, we have opted to put our involvement on hold until such changes have been implemented," said Amanda Webb, a spokeswoman for STA Travel. STA hasn't received any complaints or concerns from customers about Beacon, she said.

Others are moving forward with their Beacon implementations as planned. The travel section of the New York Times Web site is currently using Beacon in the user ratings section, and soon the review feature on the Movies section will also use the technology, said Diane McNulty, a spokeswoman for the company.

"We are using Beacon in a very limited way," she wrote via e-mail. "We are implementing it slowly." The privacy controversy hasn't altered the New York Times' original plans for Beacon, she said. McNulty didn't reply to additional questions sent via e-mail seeking comment about the privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, online retailer Mercantila had some unrelated technical issues that delayed its launch of Beacon, said Tom Fallows, a company spokesman. Those issues should be worked out in about two months, and in the meantime, the company will be watching the situation with plans to re-evaluate it "after the dust has settled," he said.

IAC, which said that several of its Web sites would use Beacon, plans to continue with its efforts to implement the program, said Leslie Cafferty, a spokeswoman for IAC.

Sony Online Entertainment has also implemented Beacon and tied it to the free-play trial of its Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy games in its site, said Courtney Simmons, a company spokeswoman. She declined to comment further and didn't immediately reply to a set of additional questions sent via e-mail.

TripAdvisor is currently running Beacon, but didn't answer further questions about privacy implications.

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