Archive for December 21st, 2007

Facebook’s Beacon ate my lunch

December 21, 2007

I don’t know if any of you have come across – it’s a website for the more ‘adventurous’ foodie. But if you’re in the habit of rummaging through their recipe collection or perusing their videos and you also have a Facebook account, you may want to think twice about what you choose to download.

Facebook’s recently unveiled Beacon system sucks in data about your online purchases and visits to various websites, chews it over, and then spits some of it back out as a news item, which it publishes to your Facebook page. This means some of your online purchasing habits are published as ‘content’, and your friends will be alerted to your activity and invited to come and have a look at what you’ve been up to.

This isn’t particularly new news, and Facebook has been taking a lot of flak about this feature for the last month or so. However, news of the addition of Epicurious to the list of sites included in Beacon has me worried. Personally, I think this is bad news for those of us who would perhaps like to keep our visits to the site to view videos like ‘Frolicking with Chocolate’ and ‘Brett & Dan’s Party tricks’ strictly private.

James Grimmelmann, an American lawyer, reckons that the Beacon process may well be illegal under US law. This is due to the highly obscure Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) of 1988, which, for US citizens, protects the privacy of the videos that you rent.

So all may not be lost for us Epicurians. Who’s up for a Lunch Privacy Protection Act?

Merry Christmas!