Facebook apologises for new ad scheme

The head of the social networking site has said he's sorry for how the Beacon feature was rolled out, and introduced the ability to turn the feature off.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, has publicly apologised for the site's controversial web tracking feature, Beacon, and introduced a new option allowing users to turn it off completely.

Beacon is a web monitoring feature that notifies a user's friends through newsfeeds when they visit affiliated websites. The feature drew a wave of criticism upon launch, with groups such as Moveon.org swiftly popping up to sign petitions and protest against what they claimed was an invasion of privacy.

In a post on the company blog, Zuckerberg apologised for the way Facebook had handled the feature. "We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them," Zuckerberg wrote. "We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologise for it."

The apology comes a week after the company modified Beacon to make it less intrusive.

"We missed the right balance," Zuckerberg admitted in his post. "At first we tried to make it very lightweight so people wouldn't have to touch it for it to work. The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends."

Zuckerberg went on to apologise for the furore that had followed. "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," he wrote.

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