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8 times Facebook has had to back track

Hasty moves by the social network

Facebook has made a number of hasty moves that often result in public outcry and a need to reverse on them. We check out the social network's biggest flip-flops.

The Beacon blunder

Flip: Facebook launched a program called 'Beacon' in November 2007 that permitted third-party sites to distribute 'stories' on Facebook about users who expressed an interest in a product or service at the partner site. Less than a year later, a group of plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit "alleging that Facebook and its affiliates did not give users adequate notice and choice about Beacon and the collection and use of users' personal information". The suit also named a number of Facebook partners that had participated in Beacon, including Blockbuster, Fandango, Gamefly, Hotwire, Overstock.Com, STA Travel, and Zappos.com. This all happened amid growing discontent among Facebook users over the program.

Flop: In early December 2009, Facebook, without admitting any wrongdoing, chose to shut down the Beacon program and give $9.5m to an online privacy fund, to settle the lawsuit. Beacon remains Facebook's most famous misstep.

We own you... or not

Flip: On February 4, 2009, Facebook updated its terms of service to specify that the company retained ownership of a user's profile data indefinitely, even after the user cancelled an account. The policy change amounted to removing two crucial lines from the Terms previously in force: "You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the licence granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content."

After the Consumerist website noticed the change and reported it, howls of protest commenced.

Flop: A few days later, Facebook relented, admitting it had gone too far and reversing the change by restoring the two lines to the terms of service. A notice posted on users' Facebook pages read: "Over the past few days, we have received a lot of good feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised."

NEXT PAGE: Memorial sites

    1. Hasty moves by the social network
    2. Still more data made public
    3. The Beacon blunder
    4. Memorial sites


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