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Privacy group takes on Facebook

Online watchdog (opens in new tab) argues that Facebook's Beacon or Social Ads ad program, which seamlessly and automatically sends messages to friends and acquaintances, when a user buys an item from a partner website, violates personal privacy.

Canadian website Globe and Mail (opens in new tab) explains how Social Ads works "When Facebook users make a purchase at one of the sites using Beacon, a small box pops up in the corner of their Web browser, informing them that their data will be shared with Facebook unless the user clicks "No Thanks." The next time the user signs into Facebook, a second confirmation notice pops up. If the user simply ignores the two notices without "opting out" then consent is inferred."

Some users have argued that Beacon (opens in new tab) has ruined their Christmas and birthdays because they could actually see what their partners and friends had purchased for them beforehand.

Worringly enough, purchases can reveal much more than you would intend. Buying a book on how to prepare your CV, might send the wrong messages to your colleagues.

Facebook allows users to disable (opens in new tab) sharing information from its 40 partner websites (including Fadango, Sony and Ebay) on a site by site basis and they can't leave the program totally.

The social networking website has also introduced new means that allow user to choose what kind of news feeds they approve or disapprove.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's creator, has recently been trying to monetise the traffic on Facebook and has received a USD 240 million investment from Software Giant microsoft, last month.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.