Remember Beacon? That a pervasive tool Facebook created for tracking, collecting, and publishing user purchasing habits across the Web? After enough uproar, Facebook was kind enough to offer users a way to opt-out of this surveillance assemblage.
Well, I was going through Facebook’s privacy settings today (in preparation for some of our education kiosks at Milwaukee’s OneWebDay celebration), and found that the Beacon opt-out was tucked away on this page dealing with Applications privacy settings. My setting looked like this:
Notice that my box is checked to opt-out of the surveillance (I’m pretty sure I did that myself months ago, and it wasn’t a default).
I decided to click the “Learn more” link to see what kind of things Facebook wants me to know about Beacon, which opened up a new tab in my browser. But when I closed that tab and returned to the privacy settings page, lo and behold, my pre-existing opt-out has been turned off:
Nasty. A user goes to get more information about a privacy-invasive “feature”, and the act of clicking that link turns off the opt-out. An unsuspecting user, who might have purposefully tweaked other settings on said page, might simply go ahead and click “Save”, never realizing she now is agreed to participate in Beacon.
Facebook: fix this now.
Amendment: To be fair, it doesn’t seem that Facebook is intentionally opting you back in, but that they’ve coded that entire line of text from “Don’t allow…” down to the “Learn more” to switch on/off the radio button. So if you click “Learn more” again when the button is off, it will switch back on. Either way, this is bad code that will result in users selecting/de-selecting an option they might not want.
UPDATE: Chris mentions in the comments this phenomenon might be browser-dependent, as clicking on “Learn more” in Google Chrome doesn’t automatically select/deselect the radio button. The results above were performed on Firefox 3.0.1 on a Mac. I’ve also tested on Safari, which matches Chris’s results.