Facebook Users Complain About Privacy

The networking site alerts friends about online purchases, often without users' knowledge.

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This past weekend, after my sister found a great pair of Dansko clogs and ordered them online from Zappos.com, her Facebook friends received a newsfeed message that told them she had just "found something cool at Zappos.com." Since she hadn't planned on announcing her purchase to so many people, she quickly deleted the message but not before feeling that her privacy had been invaded.

It turns out Facebook has relationships with online retailers, including Zappos.com, Fandango.com, and Overstock.com, that allow the social networking site to post information when purchases are made. My sister isn't the only one upset by it; the liberal group MoveOn.org started a petition asking Facebook to respect users' privacy and stop the practice. The blog Binary Freedom has asked Facebook not to ruin the holidays by alerting people to their gifts ahead of time.

Facebook has defended itself by pointing out that users can opt out, if they are aware enough to figure out how to do so. (It involves clicking on a box inside your Web browser after transactions or opting out when you next log on to Facebook. My sister, a Web-savvy medical student, didn't notice either option.)

Are those options enough? Would you mind if all your friends were alerted each time you made a purchase? Let me know what you think at alphaconsumer@usnews.com.