Today someone sent me a blog post that discusses how some e-commerce sites are automatically broadcasting information about your online behavior to the popular social networking site: Facebook: Facebook changes the norms for web purchasing and privacy.
The post cites the example of how Overstock.com automatically sends updates to your Facebook mini-feed when you purchase something from their site, and then all your friends get notified. The post tells how to go into your Facebook settings to turn this auto-broadcast feature off for Overstock.com, but it says that you can’t globally opt out from all future third party purchases.
The blogger, Ethan Zuckerman, captures his feelings nicely:
“For me, the overwhelming feeling was one of uneasiness – in my head, at least, this isn’t how the web works. When you’re doing business with a website, your interactions have consequences only on that site, not on a completely unrelated website, right? Of course, that’s not true”.
A different blogger, Wendy Seltzer, wrote a related post back in November involving how Blockbuster.com uses Facebook to share customers’ rental history with friends: Facebook: Privacy versus cross-context aggregation.
Both of these posts are worth checking out. As you’ll see from the reader comments, many online users aren’t very happy about this new method for disseminating information. But one voice not represented in these conversations is that of the e-commerce sites. From their perspective, this viral marketing no doubt pays off in major ways. Right now social networks are the Wild Wild West of the Web, and consumers and retailers are trying to feel out where the boundaries are. Like I mentioned in my recent post Is Online Anonymity a Thing of the Past?, online users seem less and less hesitant to air their personal laundry online, but I would imagine that only applies to laundry they hand pick. It will be interesting to see if we can strike a balance that works for both the retailer and consumer.