Facebook Chief Apologizes for Online Sales Tracking

But will users forgive the social networking site for its privacy snafu?


On Wednesday, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the social networking site's program, known as Beacon, that alerts users to one another's recent purchases.

"We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it," he wrote.

Complaints about Beacon started soon after it began: People felt as though their privacy was being invaded, and because the program launch coincided with the holiday shopping season, many said their surprise presents were ruined. Some users swore off Facebook altogether.

Now, the question is: Will Zuckerberg's apology lead to forgiveness?

He's hardly the first chief executive to try to make amends after a public-relations nightmare. Mattel did it after its toys were recalled in September. JetBlue ran newspaper ads of apology after passengers were delayed and stranded in February. And AOL said sorry last year after releasing customers' search data.

Sometimes the words feel a little stilted and forced, as with little kids who are only sorry they got caught. But sometimes—and for me, Facebook falls into this category—the company seems to genuinely recognize that it made a mistake. Maybe it's the fact that Zuckerberg wrote a long blog entry that details his thinking on the matter. Perhaps it's his forthrightness about admitting wrong. Or it could be the humble closing sentence, which thanks us for taking the time to read his note.

Whatever it is, it worked for me. I'm not planning to cancel my Facebook membership anytime soon. But I'll also be taking steps to turn off the Beacon program on my account.