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York University
Administrative Studies
ADMS 1010
Rebecca Jubis

Case Brief Background: What is Beacon? A popular social network site,, launched Beacon program in the early November 2007. Beacon is an advertising tool which was as part of Facebook advertising platform for all 44 online partners such as Blockbluster, and The New York Times to track Facebook users’ activities. Beacon recorded Facebook users’ activities and proactively broadcast to their friends on Facebook once Beacon was embedded into a partner’s web site. The notification window of Facebook members would close unless the user opted out Beacon quickly. And the activity data would be sent to the user’s friends through Facebook News Feed. Moreover, the opt-out notice was appeared in a small window on Facebook and it disappeared quickly that Facebook users could not take any action. Moreover, users were not able to reject all sharing on Facebook, the notification window would appear every time when the user visit the partner site. How does Beacon work? As shown in Figure 1, Beacon tracks users’ activities on partner sites and would ask Facebook if the user is a Facebook member (Arrow I). Facebook members would be asked if their activities appeared and broadcasted to their friends as News Feed on Facebook through a notification window (Arrow II). No information and activities would be sent to their friends on Facebook if the user opted out Beacon (Arrow IV). However, if the user did not opt out, and ignored the opt-out small window, Facebook would store and take the user’s activity data (Arrow III) and sent the information and broadcasted to their friends on Facebook (Arrow V). For example, if a user rents a movie from Blockbuster online, Blockbuster will ask Facebook if the user is a Facebook member. If Facebook responds the question as yes, then Blockbuster will send the movie to the user rented on Facebook, and Facebook will store its user’s activity data. How Beacon was involved in privacy issue? Beacon “captured detailed data along with IP addresses of all visitors on a partner site” (Martin, 2008, p.8) for both Facebook members and non-members. Moreover, Beacon decided whether or not to store users’ activities data and broadcasted users’ information on Facebook when Facebook received all the tracking information. Furthermore, Beacon tracked users even they did not log in Facebook or even after they logged off their accounts and people who had just opted out Beacon of having their activities information available to their friends on Facebook as News Feed. Even Facebook improved the notification window to let its users opt out; users still could not have the ability to opt out the Beacon service completely. In reality, “users were not informed that data on their activities was always flowing back to Facebook, nor given the option to block that information from arriving at Facebook” (Martin, 2008, p.10) The Beacon program should be considered as illegal and unethical because Facebook linked people online identities and their activities data without their permission before their information were shared by their Facebook friends. In addition, there is a high potential for embarrassment if Facebook users are not aware the work of Beacon service and are not educated about their privacy settings. There were already reports and criticisms of “Facebook ruining Christmas by announcing (via Beacon) the purchases of people who had planned on using those purchases as surprise Christmas gifts” (The Blork Blog, 2007) as seen as the example of the lawsuit: Lane v. Facebook. History: 2007 Lawsuit: Lane v. Facebook In November 6, Facebook launched the Beacon advertising program as a part of its adve
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