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Facebook 'Sponsored Stories' Invasion of Privacy?

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Facebook has come under some criticism over the past two years for using user information in advertising - ads containing users' pictures, selling of information, and now their newly launched "Sponsored Stories:.

"Your clicks of Facebook's "Like" button and check-ins at restaurants, stores and other establishments are already valuable marketing material. Now Facebook is letting companies and individuals buy the right to republish those actions to your friends in ads -- including your name and profile photo -- on the social network's site," the Washington Post reported.

"Sponsored Stories are stories that your friends published into your News Feed. These show up on the right hand side of pages on Facebook. The types of stories that can be surfaced include: Page Likes, App interactions, Place check-ins and Page posts," Facebook explains.

Facebook gets around most of it including permissions in their sign up and terms and conditions. Interestingly, regular users do not seem to mind despite concerns privacy advocates have had with Facebook for years.

"Privacy advocates have called on regulators to intervene. Some frustrated users, meanwhile, have created websites that highlight what they see as shortcomings in Facebook's privacy controls.

The site's privacy travails have rattled Facebook employees and put pressure on Mr. Zuckerberg, who has argued for years that its users should be more open with their information. He has at times over-ruled employees who argue Facebook should make more information private, by default, according to people familiar with the matter. He has instead pushed to offer tools so users can control their information, these people said," the Wall Street Journal reported last year.

"Common-law privacy torts ... forbid someone from appropriating the name or likeness of another, and several states -- including New York and California -- have such laws. New York, for example, forbids the use of a person's "name, portrait, picture or voice" from being used for advertising purposes without the prior written approval from the person," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington noted, according to PC World.

"As for whether or not it can be applied to Facebook, there are probably two questions: First, did the person meaningfully consent to the endorsement?" he said. "And second, can the New York law be enforced against an Internet firm? Based on what I know so far, it looks like the answers would be 'no' and 'yes.'"

Jim Squires,Facebook marketing products manager, told ClickZ "As is the case with other Facebook.com ads, Sponsored Stories can only be targeted at users who have allowed it in their privacy settings. For instance, if users have their wall posts set to "Only Friends," those messages could not be served in ads to anyone but their friends. "You only see a Sponsored Story if you are already eligible to see it in your newsfeed," Squires explained.

There are four types of "stories," from Facebook's perspective: "Like stories" involve when users choose to "like" a brand; "page post stories" entail users' wall posts; "app stories" include messages between app users, such as video game players; and "check-in stories" consist of posts via the geo-social platform Facebook Places".


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