Zuckerberg admits “mistakes” on Facebook’s Beacon

Posted to his Facebook blog.

Kudos to Zuckerberg for apologizing and admitting mistakes. That’s the sign of a real leader. Not many CEOs would use words like those.

UPDATE: My readers so far don’t agree that it demonstrates leadership, pointing out that this is modus operandi by Zuckerberg. Me? I backed off cause I see that people just don’t care about this issue the way that I do.

65 thoughts on “Zuckerberg admits “mistakes” on Facebook’s Beacon

  1. Zuckerberg only cares about the FB users when they revolt like they did with Beacon. Look at how he handled the newsfeeds fiasco and ask yourself what he learned from that? It’s clear he didn’t learn much and I don’t believe this will be the time something like this happens. The downfall of FB has already begun.

  2. @21:
    But did they really? As it’s been pointed out already, Facebook continues to receive this data, whether or not you’ve opted out or not (notice that by default you are STILL opted IN). Hell, even if you’re not a Facebook member the data still gets sent. While there’s no reason not to believe that such data is being deleted, you are still expected to trust that they will ignore/delete such data.

    The only concession we’ve received is that you can now globally opt-out, but I don’t believe that they’ve taken responsibility or completely fixed the problem. As I noted above, they are still trying to punt this as a useful tool for the end-user, even though most people who know about it want to stay the hell away from it.

  3. @21:
    But did they really? As it’s been pointed out already, Facebook continues to receive this data, whether or not you’ve opted out or not (notice that by default you are STILL opted IN). Hell, even if you’re not a Facebook member the data still gets sent. While there’s no reason not to believe that such data is being deleted, you are still expected to trust that they will ignore/delete such data.

    The only concession we’ve received is that you can now globally opt-out, but I don’t believe that they’ve taken responsibility or completely fixed the problem. As I noted above, they are still trying to punt this as a useful tool for the end-user, even though most people who know about it want to stay the hell away from it.

  4. I’m not in the tech industry, but work in a university environment. Because of that, I’ve been on Facebook for about two years, and have seen it grow from being a college student cult favorite to being the mega-monster it is now. Throughout its development, Facebook has added new features, and had to apologize for not having thoroughly enough thought through the implications. I actually agree with you, Robert, that this shows leadership. Did it take way too long? Yep. Is it a PR apology? Yep. But keep a couple of things in mind . . . first, consider how quickly other CEOs of similar sized companies would be to apologize like this – not very likely. Second, keep in mind that Zuckerberg is still a young, young guy. He’s going to have a larger than average number of gaffes like this – it’s part of growing up and learning.

    I’d also suggest that mistakes like this are what you get when you’ve got highly innovative folks trying to propel their products as quickly as Facebook has.

  5. I’m not in the tech industry, but work in a university environment. Because of that, I’ve been on Facebook for about two years, and have seen it grow from being a college student cult favorite to being the mega-monster it is now. Throughout its development, Facebook has added new features, and had to apologize for not having thoroughly enough thought through the implications. I actually agree with you, Robert, that this shows leadership. Did it take way too long? Yep. Is it a PR apology? Yep. But keep a couple of things in mind . . . first, consider how quickly other CEOs of similar sized companies would be to apologize like this – not very likely. Second, keep in mind that Zuckerberg is still a young, young guy. He’s going to have a larger than average number of gaffes like this – it’s part of growing up and learning.

    I’d also suggest that mistakes like this are what you get when you’ve got highly innovative folks trying to propel their products as quickly as Facebook has.

  6. LOL. Bruce Keener, you nailed it on the head. Of course that’s exactly what went down. And that’s okay. He apologized and that’s what we wanted. They fixed the problem and that’s what matters. Using cookies and web bugs to track where you go is nothing new, it was making it an automatic opt-in program without our knowledge and the broadcasting of where we went and what we bought to all our FB friends is where the real privacy violation occurred.

    Robert, yeah most of the world doesn’t know or care about this issue, but some of us did and I’m just glad he finally apologized, took responsibility and fixed the problem.

  7. LOL. Bruce Keener, you nailed it on the head. Of course that’s exactly what went down. And that’s okay. He apologized and that’s what we wanted. They fixed the problem and that’s what matters. Using cookies and web bugs to track where you go is nothing new, it was making it an automatic opt-in program without our knowledge and the broadcasting of where we went and what we bought to all our FB friends is where the real privacy violation occurred.

    Robert, yeah most of the world doesn’t know or care about this issue, but some of us did and I’m just glad he finally apologized, took responsibility and fixed the problem.

  8. Well I hope, at least, this stops the insane valuations. But after the Scoble hype, a disaster was pending, always happens. MySpace is a spam machine, LinkedIn is a MLM fake friend dream site, Facebook is all your data belong to us. Funny, how nothing ever very social, in social software.

  9. Well I hope, at least, this stops the insane valuations. But after the Scoble hype, a disaster was pending, always happens. MySpace is a spam machine, LinkedIn is a MLM fake friend dream site, Facebook is all your data belong to us. Funny, how nothing ever very social, in social software.

  10. Robert,

    Re your comment “Me? I backed off cause I see that people just don’t care about this issue the way that I do.”

    A lot of us care about the issue, but a lot of us don’t believe it takes 2 weeks to develop sincerity. Sounds more like the amount of time it takes to run several drafts through PR and Legal staffs.

  11. Robert,

    Re your comment “Me? I backed off cause I see that people just don’t care about this issue the way that I do.”

    A lot of us care about the issue, but a lot of us don’t believe it takes 2 weeks to develop sincerity. Sounds more like the amount of time it takes to run several drafts through PR and Legal staffs.

  12. but the initial problem is still there, facebook gets data from its partners even if beacon is disables, (hell you don’t even have to have a facebook account, and they get the data) am I happy about this?

    Excellent point. I see nothing in today’s apology that contradicts this. In fact, Zuckerberg states, “If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.” [Emphasis mine.] So Facebook is still being told that you rented “Inside Deep Throat” from Blockbuster; they just aren’t, you know, storing that information.

    Seems like they’re *still* trying to put a positive spin on the whole thing – “we intended it to be a beneficial program for our users so they could share!” – even though from day one it has been a disaster AND there is NO benefit to end users aside from turning them into unwitting schills.

    LOL Violating your privacy is a feature, not a bug! :) Having as a starting assumption that you want your privacy violated just makes things easier for you, the consumer!

    From the apology:

    About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web.

    TRANSLATION: About a month ago, we released a new feature in the telephone network called Eavesdropping to try to help the police find bad people.

    We were excited about Beacon because we believe a lot of information people want to share isn’t on Facebook, and if we found the right balance, Beacon would give people an easy and controlled way to share more of that information with their friends.

    TRANSLATION: As a side effect, it would also put BILLIONS of dollars into our pockets, but really, all we care about is helping people share information with their friends.

    But we missed the right balance.

    TRANSLATION: It turns out that some people don’t want us listening to their private phone conversations.

    It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share.

    TRANSLATION: After we finished the last bottle of champagne and turned down the music, we noticed some of you were complaining.

    Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution.

    TRANSLATION: We weren’t even going to acknowledge that there WAS a problem. And we would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids….

    People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it.

    TRANSLATION: Some people would say that the default setting should be “no eavesdropping.” To them, I say: What are you trying to hide?

    If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.

    TRANSLATION: We will still listen to your phone conversations. But we promise to NEVER EVER make recordings of them. Honest.

  13. but the initial problem is still there, facebook gets data from its partners even if beacon is disables, (hell you don’t even have to have a facebook account, and they get the data) am I happy about this?

    Excellent point. I see nothing in today’s apology that contradicts this. In fact, Zuckerberg states, “If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.” [Emphasis mine.] So Facebook is still being told that you rented “Inside Deep Throat” from Blockbuster; they just aren’t, you know, storing that information.

    Seems like they’re *still* trying to put a positive spin on the whole thing – “we intended it to be a beneficial program for our users so they could share!” – even though from day one it has been a disaster AND there is NO benefit to end users aside from turning them into unwitting schills.

    LOL Violating your privacy is a feature, not a bug! :) Having as a starting assumption that you want your privacy violated just makes things easier for you, the consumer!

    From the apology:

    About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web.

    TRANSLATION: About a month ago, we released a new feature in the telephone network called Eavesdropping to try to help the police find bad people.

    We were excited about Beacon because we believe a lot of information people want to share isn’t on Facebook, and if we found the right balance, Beacon would give people an easy and controlled way to share more of that information with their friends.

    TRANSLATION: As a side effect, it would also put BILLIONS of dollars into our pockets, but really, all we care about is helping people share information with their friends.

    But we missed the right balance.

    TRANSLATION: It turns out that some people don’t want us listening to their private phone conversations.

    It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share.

    TRANSLATION: After we finished the last bottle of champagne and turned down the music, we noticed some of you were complaining.

    Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution.

    TRANSLATION: We weren’t even going to acknowledge that there WAS a problem. And we would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids….

    People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it.

    TRANSLATION: Some people would say that the default setting should be “no eavesdropping.” To them, I say: What are you trying to hide?

    If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.

    TRANSLATION: We will still listen to your phone conversations. But we promise to NEVER EVER make recordings of them. Honest.

  14. Zuckerberg’s post claims that Beacon was a user service… intended to let users share information with their friends. No mention of its role as a revenue service marketed by Facebook to advertisers. Ick. Spin. Adding an off-switch to allow users the ability to disable Beacon is a good thing. But does that disable the data flows to Facebook, or only their display to my Facebook friends? To me, MZ acknowledges that he’s in a hole, but he’s still digging. More spin. double ick.

  15. Zuckerberg’s post claims that Beacon was a user service… intended to let users share information with their friends. No mention of its role as a revenue service marketed by Facebook to advertisers. Ick. Spin. Adding an off-switch to allow users the ability to disable Beacon is a good thing. But does that disable the data flows to Facebook, or only their display to my Facebook friends? To me, MZ acknowledges that he’s in a hole, but he’s still digging. More spin. double ick.

  16. Maybe Zuckerberg didn’t apologize quickly enough, but some CEOs never do. Yes, doing this data gathering in secret is wrong. But you also have to give Facebook credit for experimenting, and backing off when constituents pushed back. That’s the mindset that changes markets.

  17. Maybe Zuckerberg didn’t apologize quickly enough, but some CEOs never do. Yes, doing this data gathering in secret is wrong. But you also have to give Facebook credit for experimenting, and backing off when constituents pushed back. That’s the mindset that changes markets.

  18. I’m not in the industry, so I’m talking from the point of view of the consumer/user.

    Deciding to make any new potentially privacy-infringing feature on a pre-existing service opt-out rather than opt-in seems like more than a mistake. It reveals a tremendous lack of judgement. I think this could only be a result of arrogance.

    I’d be curious if anyone along the tiny ladder at Facebook spoke up about this being implemented, and was shouted down. If so, that person deserves a raise.

    This might be a good moment to hire someone with a background in ethics. You know, someone over 30.

  19. I’m not in the industry, so I’m talking from the point of view of the consumer/user.

    Deciding to make any new potentially privacy-infringing feature on a pre-existing service opt-out rather than opt-in seems like more than a mistake. It reveals a tremendous lack of judgement. I think this could only be a result of arrogance.

    I’d be curious if anyone along the tiny ladder at Facebook spoke up about this being implemented, and was shouted down. If so, that person deserves a raise.

    This might be a good moment to hire someone with a background in ethics. You know, someone over 30.

  20. I’ll grant that it’s an apology. In fact, it may be sincere – but Zuckerburg is a failed leader and his words are meaningless to me at this point.

    He and his team have made it painfully clear that they do not have their customers at the forefront of their thoughts with regard to the platform.

    I’d close my account on Facebook but the fact is, they don’t actually delete your data (given that you can “reintstate” your account at any time).

    You won’t find me on there ever again.

  21. I’ll grant that it’s an apology. In fact, it may be sincere – but Zuckerburg is a failed leader and his words are meaningless to me at this point.

    He and his team have made it painfully clear that they do not have their customers at the forefront of their thoughts with regard to the platform.

    I’d close my account on Facebook but the fact is, they don’t actually delete your data (given that you can “reintstate” your account at any time).

    You won’t find me on there ever again.

  22. I care, Robert! As you can see by the cartoon I wrote and posted on my blog.

    I think it’s going to take a lot more than this apology to repair the damage this has caused the Facebook brand.

  23. I care, Robert! As you can see by the cartoon I wrote and posted on my blog.

    I think it’s going to take a lot more than this apology to repair the damage this has caused the Facebook brand.

  24. OK, OK, I screwed up with this post. I figured that Zuckerberg at least did half of what I recommended and said he’s sorry and that he made mistakes.

    Personally if it were me I’d have done it in video, at minimum (text can be sent to PR, lawyers, and others to be “cleansed” where video is a lot harder to do that) and I would have had a few journalists and/or bloggers over to have a “lunch chat” about Beacon where I’d again emphasize what was said on the video. Heck, if I were really smart I’d invite Justin.tv over, open up Twitter, and do it live in front of the world and take questions from everyone and clear the air.

  25. OK, OK, I screwed up with this post. I figured that Zuckerberg at least did half of what I recommended and said he’s sorry and that he made mistakes.

    Personally if it were me I’d have done it in video, at minimum (text can be sent to PR, lawyers, and others to be “cleansed” where video is a lot harder to do that) and I would have had a few journalists and/or bloggers over to have a “lunch chat” about Beacon where I’d again emphasize what was said on the video. Heck, if I were really smart I’d invite Justin.tv over, open up Twitter, and do it live in front of the world and take questions from everyone and clear the air.

  26. It’s kind of funny when you look at the page with the post, which aggregates all posts from Mark Zuckerberg….The two posts below his current one are responses to the 2006 issue with the news feed. In addition to showing that he only reaches out when something is wrong, the aggregation page is also becoming a historical record of Facebook’s mistakes.

  27. It’s kind of funny when you look at the page with the post, which aggregates all posts from Mark Zuckerberg….The two posts below his current one are responses to the 2006 issue with the news feed. In addition to showing that he only reaches out when something is wrong, the aggregation page is also becoming a historical record of Facebook’s mistakes.

  28. Seems like they’re *still* trying to put a positive spin on the whole thing – “we intended it to be a beneficial program for our users so they could share!” – even though from day one it has been a disaster AND there is NO benefit to end users aside from turning them into unwitting schills.

  29. Seems like they’re *still* trying to put a positive spin on the whole thing – “we intended it to be a beneficial program for our users so they could share!” – even though from day one it has been a disaster AND there is NO benefit to end users aside from turning them into unwitting schills.

  30. Agree with Paul — total PR Speak.

    And how does anyone, especially Scoble, call it a Facebook “Blog”? I know that’s what Zuckerberg call it, but There is no comment system for people to respond. Quotes number 2 and 3 are both bang on. This is Zuckerberg’s Super-Wall-of-Shame.

  31. Agree with Paul — total PR Speak.

    And how does anyone, especially Scoble, call it a Facebook “Blog”? I know that’s what Zuckerberg call it, but There is no comment system for people to respond. Quotes number 2 and 3 are both bang on. This is Zuckerberg’s Super-Wall-of-Shame.

  32. I’m sorry but I have to call BS here.

    Saying nothing through a month of universally bad PR in which your own customers rebel against you and then saying it was a mistake isn’t exactly great leadership.

    Honestly, its bad even for damage control…

  33. I’m sorry but I have to call BS here.

    Saying nothing through a month of universally bad PR in which your own customers rebel against you and then saying it was a mistake isn’t exactly great leadership.

    Honestly, its bad even for damage control…

  34. but the initial problem is still there, facebook gets data from its partners even if beacon is disables, (hell you don’t even have to have a facebook account, and they get the data) am I happy about this?

    Data like this should only be gathered with my consent, knowing that facebook can know what I am spending or looking at without my consent (even if its not displayed) just has that worrying feel about it.

    Oh and who are there partners

  35. but the initial problem is still there, facebook gets data from its partners even if beacon is disables, (hell you don’t even have to have a facebook account, and they get the data) am I happy about this?

    Data like this should only be gathered with my consent, knowing that facebook can know what I am spending or looking at without my consent (even if its not displayed) just has that worrying feel about it.

    Oh and who are there partners

  36. Notice how 75% of his blog is apologies.

    Not really a blog so much as a place to grovel once every few months

  37. Notice how 75% of his blog is apologies.

    Not really a blog so much as a place to grovel once every few months

Comments are closed.