Faced with a firestorm of protest over a part of its month-old ad strategy that raised some members?privacy hackles, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence today to apologize:
About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web. 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. Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I’m not proud of the way we’ve handled this situation and I know we can do better.
So now, if you’re a member, you can go to your privacy controls page and opt out entirely (well, not entirely—your info still gets sent to Facebook, but doesn’t show up publicly). It looks something like this (if you haven’t bought anything yet at participating sites):
Will this be enough? Some people don’t think so. But if this opt-out actually works, I’m betting the furor eventually will die down, even if the larger issue of consumer data collection by marketers won’t. After all, even during the debacle, Facebook traffic kept growing like a weed.
The bigger question: How much of an impact will this have on Facebook’s ability to boost revenues to justify even a piece of that $15 billion valuation? Hard to tell right now, but with even some advertisers now a little queasy about ticking off their customers by turning them into marketing vehicles, Facebook will have much more of a challenge than it appeared just a few short weeks ago.