Facebook Users Poke Back

People are demanding that the popular social networking site stop revealing their online purchases.

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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): From NPR News in New York, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

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This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News, your home for news, information, and today, Internet rumors. We're not spreading them; we're going to debunk them.

I'm Alison Stewart.


And I am Luke Burbank. It's Friday, November 30, 2007.

And I got to say, as if, as if there was another reason to hate work than the graveyard, the third shift, whatever it is you call it, there is now possibly scientific data out from the World Health Organization. They're now classifying that shift of work as a probable carcinogen.

STEWART: Yeah. It's not actually the work itself; it's the factors common among graveshard…


STEWART: Graveshard - graveyard shift workers that raise the risk for cancer. I'm in trouble because I anchored the overnight news at ABC two years, took a little time off, like rolling in here in the wee hours at 3 a.m. But fortunately, there are people disputing this.


STEWART: It's something about your melatonin levels. And you can take melatonin that helps regulate your sleep cycle, but then your body might stop producing it. So, I'll be rolling in later people. That's all I'm saying.

BURBANK: I just want you to know, every time I come in at 5:15, it's because I'm putting my health first.

STEWART: Exactly. Exactly.

BURBANK: Take care of myself.

STEWART: What is on the show today?

BURBANK: We got some political talk…

STEWART: Yes, we do.

BURBANK: …with Jonathan Martin, Politico.com. He is going to talk about those top 10 scurrilous Internet rumors that are floating about. But lest you think that we are becoming some kind of tabloidy show, we are going to tell you why they're not true. That's the end of that.

STEWART: All right. Also, Osama bin Laden has released a message. An audio message came out yesterday, not directed to Americans, but Europeans. We'll dive into that story as well.

BURBANK: Also, a guy whose goal is to work 52 different jobs in one year. So far, he's been a dairy farmer, a tattoo artist, radio DJ, perish the thought. We're going to get news from special news correspondent Laura Conaway in just a moment. She's waving from the booth.

First though, let's get to the BPP's big story.

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BURBANK: Facebook users poke back. Facebook is responding to privacy complaints by scamming back a new feature that broadcast information about what members are buying online for their friends and transmitted to their friends.

STEWART: Users who dislike the system called Beacon had two main complaints. One, they considered it an invasion of their privacy, and two, it ruined Christmas literally.

BURBANK: Here's the case in point from the Washington Post: A guy named Sean Lane who bought a diamond ring for his wife for Christmas - sweet. He went to great lengths to make it a surprise; he told her he wasn't going to get her jewelry this year. But as soon as he bought the ring, a message went up on Facebook - on his Facebook page, which said Sean Lane bought a 14k-carat white gold, one-fifth carat Diamond Eternity Flower Ring from overstock.com

STEWART: It's - I guess it's for his wife now. I kid. I kid.

BURBANK: Well, yeah. I mean, two hours after he bought the ring, he got an IM from his wife, Shannon, saying, who's the ring for? He tried to play dumb, but it lasted for like about half a second because he had to admit that it was, in fact, for her.

STEWART: But outed givers and receivers were only part of the dragon force behind Facebook's decision to revamp Beacon. The liberal activist group MoveOn.org launched a petition nine days ago to protest what it called an invasion of users' privacy. In response, Facebook announced it would give users more flexibility to choose what information Beacon publishes and from which sites.

BURBANK: They also said that they'd make a list of Beacon partner Web sites more visible; that list includes eBay, Travelocity, Fandango, Blockbuster and others. Plus, Facebook pledged to provide a new tutorial and help section on how Beacon works.

STEWART: And Facebook was indeed contrite. In a post explaining some of the changes, Paul Janzer of Facebook added, quote, "We're sorry if we spoiled some of your holiday gift-giving plans."

BURBANK: They need to pay for some of that wedding is what they need to do.

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BURBANK: And that is the BPP big story.

And now, with her news debut, our very good friend, online producer and today, newscaster extraordinaire, Laura Conaway is here.

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