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Facebook drops Beacon, hopes nobody notices

FacebookWhat type of tech news is released late on Friday, long after most bloggers, reporters, and readers have signed off for the day? Bad or embarrassing news, of course. In Facebook's case, the news concerns Beacon, the controversial people-tracking platform that the company rolled out in 2007.

Privacy activists and ordinary users who were uncomfortable with the prospect of Zuckerberg et al monitoring their digital footsteps - even when they're signed out of Facebook - will be overjoyed at the news that Facebook is finally about to kill off the last traces of the program, which a few partner websites are apparently still using.

Facebook submitted a settlement to a California court late on Friday in an effort to end a class-action lawsuit. The settlement has yet to be approved, but if there's any doubt that Facebook really does want to put the Beacon fiasco behind them, one only needs to look at the statement from company spokesman Barry Schnitt, describing an "independent" privacy foundation that Facebook has offered to fund with $9.5m of its own money:

"We look forward to the creation of the foundation and its work to educate internet users on how best to control their privacy; engage in safe social-networking practices; and, generally, enjoy themselves more online by having knowledge that gives them a greater sense of control... We fully expect the foundation to team with other leading online-safety and privacy experts and organisations that have been working diligently in these fields."

As for the losers in this story, it's not just Facebook that's running away with its tail between its legs. The advertising partners who actually supported this dog surely must be blushing over their role in helping get Beacon off the ground. At the time of launch, CNet listed the supporting cast as The New York Times, Blockbuster, CondeNet, General Motors, STA Travel, Fandango, CollegeHumor, Joost, Six Apart, Coke, Sony BMG and Verizon.

See also:

Facebook kills controversial Beacon system

10 Facebook & Twitter privacy faux pas

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