Thursday, December 06, 2007

On Facebook Beacon, Zuckerberg and the Panopticon

It won't be long before anyone interested in Facebook reads or hears of this post from Mark Zuckerberg on the Facebook blog.

He has come to see the damage sustained by Facebook through the introduction of Beacon and reflects on the uneasiness felt by current and prospective Facebook users.

And bites the bullet,
"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."
I know little about the workings of business, but I do know that when something goes wrong it needs to be fixed quickly. When Zuckerberg and Facebook realised that Beacon was flawed they found themselves unable to react. In the panoptic glare of the world's social and media networks they responded far too slowly to the ever increasing criticism.
He knows that now.
"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."
As a result Beacon has changed, last week it became an opt-in system; this week users can turn it off completely.

"If you select that you don't want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won't store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook"


In Bentham's Panopticon, the warders looked outwards, at inmates who never knew whether or not they were observed. Control came from the centre.

In Zuckerberg's Facebook, the users have realised they are being observed and have started looking inwards.

Who has control now?

Facebook, it's users or it's partners?

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