Facebook pays $9.5 million to make Beacon disappear

Social networking giant Facebook says it has learned lessons over handling the private data of its users.

Facebook will completely shut down its controversial privacy-baiting advertising feature Beacon, following user backlash that resulted in a lawsuit alleging the scheme was forced upon them.

After a year of legal wrangling, Facebook will also donate $9.5 million to a foundation dedicated to raising enhancing privacy and security, according to IT PRO's sister title PC Pro.

The controversy stemmed from the way in which Beacon monitored a user's browsing behaviour on websites other than Facebook.

It used the information to notify Facebook friends of their activities, and also enabled companies to target advertisements.

It was also an opt-out system, meaning that users were automatically signed up to the service until they voiced they didn't want to be part of it.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had to publish a humbling apology a month after its November 2007 launch, where he announced that Beacon would switch to an opt-in system.

"We learned a great deal from the Beacon experience," said Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt. "For one, it underscored how critical it is to provide extensive user control over how information is shared."

He added: "We also learned how to effectively communicate changes that we make to the user experience."

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