Is Facebook Listening In? Yes, with Facebook Beacons

Ian Lurie

Marketing Conversations (no relation) has a synopsis of a Computer Associates article regarding Facebook’s Beacon. I think Facebook has gone too far this time.

is Facebook listening too hard?

Facebook Beacon is a 3-line code snippet that webmasters can add to their sites. The Beacon then transmits user behavior back to Facebook.
Here’s a quick example: I have a Facebook account. I visit an e-commerce site that uses the Beacon. When I make a purchase, my Facebook profile page updates to say “Ian just bought four widgets on”.

Facebook is accumulating an enormous database of people’s online habits. That data is connected to each individual account, and, according to Computer Associates, Facebook isn’t allowing account holders to opt out.

This goes beyond Google’s search history. While Google logs my search history, I can turn it off, or clear the history (cynics will say Google’s still recording that data and linking it to my account – I can only shrug and ask for proof, please).

On the other hand, this data is marketing gold. If I know the last 4 sites you visited and what you did on those sites, I can send you exactly the right message, at exactly the right time. I can even follow up and ask you why you didn’t purchase my product.

It’s also creepy.

What do you think? Are you considering leaving Facebook because of this?

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Is it creepy? Yes, definitely. Am I considering leaving Facebook for it? No, probably not.
    I think we’re kidding ourselves to think that Facebook is the only major internet player using these kind of data collection practices.
    Still, they should allow users an opt-out – it’s just good form. And if I were them, I’d be a tad more concerned about turning away people like you and me. After all, people like us are the main reason they’re making so much headway against the evil MySpace.

  2. When I get sent a facebook invite to join a petition to stop Facebook Beacon, then I’ll join it, and if enough people do then facebook will stop using the beacon (in a trackable way) or make it possible to opt out, just like with the Newsfeed.

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