Facebook Users Shoot the Lights Out of 'Beacon' The popular social network's Beacon application revealed users' online purchases. After a revolt by Facebook consumers, the website is backpedaling.
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Facebook Users Shoot the Lights Out of 'Beacon'

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Facebook Users Shoot the Lights Out of 'Beacon'

Facebook Users Shoot the Lights Out of 'Beacon'

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

(Soundbite of music)


This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News, your home for the news; the information that you've come to know and love.

Plus, this hour, Canadians, they're everywhere, including the top of the big NPR music list. We'll find out about that.

I'm Luke Burbank.


I'm Alison Stewart.

Top of my music list - Tay Zonday - not on the NPR list, but that "Chocolate Rain" song - I don't know if you know this or not, but there's a new remix version of Tay Zonday's "Chocolate Rain."

(Soundbite of song, "Cherry Chocolate Rain")

Mr. TAY ZONDAY (Singer): (Singing) Your energy is coursing through my veins. Cherry chocolate rain.

STEWART: "Cherry Chocolate Rain."

BURBANK: You have got to see this video. He's got lady - lovely ladies in skimpy outfits dancing and all kinds of special effects because, what, Dr. Pepper paid for this?

STEWART: It looks so, yes, there's a big Dr. Pepper promo at the end.

So for those of you who don't know about "Chocolate Rain" - Tay Zonday, I'm going to say an Erkel-looking character who had this sort of...

BURBANK: Really? That's my Erkel expression.

STEWART: ...this Internet-sensation song, "Chocolate Rain" over the summer. We played it a lot in our podcast when we were in our development phase.

And then we found this "Cherry Chocolate Rain," the updated version. It's Tay Zonday now that he's got a little bit of something-something going on because he's a big star. It's fantastic.

BURBANK: I just also want to throw something out to the other NPR shows. We have this thing called the Dibs list.

STEWART: This is funny.

BURBANK: I'm dibsing Tay Zonday for THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. When that guy surfaces, we're doing the first big interview with him.

Coming up also on the show, we are going to talk about the year's best music as decided by you, the faithful NPR listener. Bob Boilen, host of ALL SONGS CONSIDERED, is going to talk about the year-end music poll.

STEWART: Also, tomorrow, December 1st, World AIDS Day. We're going to talk to Regan Hoffman who is living with HIV. She's the editor in chief of Poz magazine.

BURBANK: And the story of a young man named Dennis Lindberg. He was a 14-year-old boy who died this week of leukemia. His story was complicated by the fact that he didn't want medical treatment. A judge said that he was old enough to make that decision along with some members of his family. We're going to talk about what the bioethical implications of that are.

We're also going to get today's headlines from the ever-qualified Laura Conaway. You'll want to stick around for this newscast; I'm just telling you because it's really good.

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

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Facebook users-1, Facebook-0. The social-networking site is responding to privacy complaints by scaling back a new feature that broadcast information about what members are buying online; that means all their friends will know.

BURBANK: Users who were angered by the system, which is called Beacon - they cited two main objection: one, they consider it an invasion of their privacy, and two, it ruined Christmas.

STEWART: For a gentleman named Sean Lane, that's for sure. There's a story about him in today's Washington Post. He bought a diamond ring for his wife for Christmas.


STEWART: He told her he wasn't going to get her jewelry this year, so it would be a surprise. Now, right after he bought the ring, a message went up on his Facebook page: Sean Lane bought a 14-karat, white gold, one-fifth-karat Diamond Eternity Flower Ring from Overstock.com.

BURBANK: And a mere two hours after little Seany(ph) bought this ring, he got an I.M. from his wife saying, hey, who's the ring for, buster?

STEWART: But stories like this were only part of the reason 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. Now in response, Facebook announced it would give users more flexibility to choose what information Beacon publishes and from which sites.

BURBANK: As you might expect, this discussion, of course, spilled over onto Facebook message boards. One poster wrote, quote, "Didn't people at least used to pretend there was such a thing as the right to privacy?"

STEWART: And another person wrote: Surely, if you were going to advertise what I purchase online, then you plan to profit from my consumption. I must insist then that you pay me a fee as I have obviously done you a service.

BURBANK: There wasn't total agreement, though. One person wrote, quote, "Everyone here is a voluntary user of Facebook. You signed up; they can do whatever they want." That person was then bitten by a zombie, and then wrote on someone's superwall.

STEWART: And posts explaining all the charges, from Paul Janzer of Facebook, he added, quote, "We're sorry if we spoiled some of your holiday gift-giving plans."

BURBANK: That is the BPP big story.

Now, here is Laura Conaway...

(Soundbite of music)

BURBANK: ...with today's headlines.

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