facebook’s social ads beacon just used me

Update: see the response by kongregate co-founder emily greer in the comments…

like everyone else, i read facebook’s announcement yesterday with interest, but hesitation. techcrunch is already documenting the backlash, but i have one anecdote to add about the Beacon, hmmm, feature. i thought that Beacon is the api where brands can push news feeds to you if you are a fan of the brand. well, my first hand initial experience with Beacon completely spooked me as a user, and has me wondering if king zuckerberg has any clothes.

the web is built around your email as your user id. i, like most users, have an email address that i used to signs up to various sites. i do it with web2 sites that i’m checking out, i do it with sites that i use on a regular basis, i do it with sites that i have passing interests. in this case, signed up to kongregate.com, where i waste many hours playing casual games, and of course the same email is on my facbeook profile. but when i signed up on either of these sites, i never expected that those two islands are going to gang up on me and use me as an unwitting endorser of kongregate’s products. and yet that’s exactly what just happened.

i was playing games on kongregate, and in the middle of a game something pop’ed up telling me that kongregate just added a note to my facebook news feeds. i did a double take; did i just see that correctly? how did kongregate know about my facebook without me doing anything? kongregate didn’t ask me for a facebook id, or whether it’s okay to send something to facebook; it just fired it off. now most sites will send the occassional email “news”, but at least they usually have a checkbox for you to opt out of them at signup. in this case, i had no expectation that this was a possibility, and no opton to turn it off. i dig thru all the kongregate settings and couldn’t find any facebook opt-out checkbox.

not being able to stop the spam at the source, i logged on to facebook. it notified me that with this little box on top of my facebook home page:


at first sight, i had no idea whether that notice was about. was it the equivalent of “is this spam and should i proceed?” or was it “the spam already went through, but we thought you should at least know about it.” given the ambiguity, i decided to go check out my profile and read my own mini feed. guess what, it was the latter! it already spammed all my friends without my permission! awesome, way to treat your users!


i went back to my facebook home page, and now even that notice is gone. it didn’t even obey its own “don’t show me this again” checkbox, which i never checked. now i don’t know where to block kongregate from doing this again. it sure isn’t under facebook’s “privacy” page.

so in summary:

– this is worse than spam, part 1: facebook and in this case kongregate spammed me without asking, and since it’s the wild west, there’s no law requiring them to label things as spam, or the mandatory “unsubscribe” button

– this is worse than spam, part 2: not only do they spam you, the user, they spam you and all your friends on facebook.

– this is worse than anything on the web today: google at least keep it to themselves what they know about you. facebook and their advertisers, in this case, exposes what they know about you to all your friends. if you are a closet gamer (or “worse”), and don’t want all your co-workers or friends to know a particular aspect of your life, too bad.

how on earth does facebook overlook all these privacy issues? was it because of the dollar sign? was kongregate just a renegade and just didn’t obey the rules? but even then, how can facebook betray the trust of its own users and let the “news” be published to all his friends without first obtaining consent (opt-in), or at minimum a notice (opt-out)?

turning facebook users into unwitting endorsers of brands? is zuckerberg on drugs?


3 Responses to “facebook’s social ads beacon just used me”

  1. November 8, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Hi William,

    We’re very sorry you felt used by this. While we realize this is a little on the intrusive side, since Facebook is about telling people what you’re doing we thought that most people would be comfortable with it since you’re notified clearly about what is happening, and can opt out at any stage of the process.

    Next time a little notification pops if you choose No, Don’t Send and then Never Ask Me Again and it will block this forever (on Kongregate at least).

    For the story that is already on your minifeed, there’s an x next to it that you can use to delete it.

    You can also control this from Facebook’s privacy settings. Click privacy, then external websites, and you’ll see controls by external site there.

    I agree that we should add an additional way to opt out on Kongregate itself, so that you don’t have to wait for a notification to appear, and we’ll consider other modifications of the program based on people’s feedback.

    Emily Greer
    Co-Founder, Kongregate

  2. November 8, 2007 at 10:01 am


    i appreciate your response on this. but since kongregate is about gaming, which is one of the most immersive experience online, is it reasonable to expect people to pay attention to a little popup at the corner of the screen, leave the game and read/click on the notification? i think that you have a reasonable expectations that most people will not drop their game to respond to it, and that’s what the design feels to me as a user: sneaking an ad by my attention.

    i do understand your motivation of wanting to spread the kongregate message to everyone possible, you offer a great gaming site. but i do think there is a line of reasonableness that you need to watch out for. if i just signed up and played one game on kongregate, decided that i don’t like it, will my name be used by kongregate as an endorser? i don’t think that’s a fair use of my name for kongregate’s bidding.

    last but not least, I have a lot more issue with facebook on this experience. they are letting spam/bacn through to not just me, but to my friends. if this is what facebook is going to do to monetize, then i expect alot of people will be up in arms.

  3. November 20, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    MoveOn.Org is organizing a petition against the Beacon Ad’s experience I blogged about. Please join us and sign it here: http://civ.moveon.org/facebookprivacy/?r_by=-7671315-9UhPgm&rc=confemail

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