Just got word that I’m mentioned in this upcoming book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Haven’t read it yet but it may be out of context. Either way, it was about a disaster someone else had.
Eleven years ago I wrote a series of articles for Marketing Conversation where I examined and pretty much lambasted Facebook for their then new program called Facebook Beacon. The articles got a lot of notice in the digital arena. Beacon was very controversial at the time as it caused chaos for a lot of people because it pretty much invade their private behavior – in this case online purchases – in a public manner. Here’s what it entailed if I remember correctly:
The Beacon program involved Facebook partnering with large ecommerce companies in which if a member of Facebook was on one of Facebook’s partner sites and bought an item while also being logged onto Facebook, the partner site would forward that info to Facebook and then that info would then be posted onto the person’s page…broadcasting the purchase to all of his or her connections. The system was “opt-out”, meaning the consumer had the opportunity to click on an often barely noticeable box that would prevent that from happening. That means the de facto setting was that the system was going to post your purchases for you and it was up to you to stop it. It wasn’t where you could give them “permission” to post it. No…you had to proactively prevent it from happening. It was a horrible idea at “word of mouth” marketing.
The disaster that happened was that a guy named Sean Lane decided that he wanted to buy a 14k White Gold 1/5 ct Diamond Eternity Flower Ring from overstock.com for his wife as a Christmas gift…as a surprise. Sounds like he’s a wonderful husband. Of course, he apparently didn’t see the small box to uncheck. BOOM!! Unbeknownst to him, Facebook posted all of this to his several hundred connections…along with his startled wife. Christmas surprise ruined.
It shouldn’t have taken a genius to foresee that stuff like that could happen. I mean, how could it not?
The articles that I wrote related how privacy invasion will manifest itself and how it could affect both the way we react to ecommerce and how companies must carry themselves.
From what I understand, the book positions me as the one who bought the ring. Nope. I just wrote about it. But at least what I wrote had some sort of impact.