Last week, Facebook and Target Corporation introduced a beta version of Cartwheel, an online function that gives deals and special offers to Facebook users. The program gives users a special barcode that they can either print or bring into the store on their mobile devices to redeem coupons. However, when a Facebook user redeems a special Cartwheel offer, their purchase appears on their Newsfeed. (If their friends take advantage of the same offer, the original purchaser gets bonus offers.) Some privacy experts, including Hemu Nigam, founder and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security firm, are concerned about this blatant transparency of Facebook users’ spending habits.
“Users will be expected to pay a price for these discounts — a cost measured in privacy rather than dollars,” Nigam writes. “Cartwheel is designed to promote most selected items on News Feeds belonging to Facebook friends, which essentially removes the anonymity of the digital retail process and adds unsolicited advertising into an experience that many users might consider a sacred opportunity to keep in touch with friends and loved ones.”
Of course, the deals offered through Cartwheel are intended to help the consumer, and there are great incentives for buyers to share their purchases on Facebook. As Nigam writes, it will be up to each individual Facebook user to decide if the benefit of the deal outweighs their retail privacy.
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