Don’t “Ad” Me on Facebook

What would it take for you to give up Facebook permanently? How about if you saw your face popping up in ads on the site without your permission?

Facebook kauft fuer Gesichtserkennung


On Wednesday, September 4th several privacy groups expressed concerns about proposed revisions to Facebook’s privacy policy. These revisions were to be implemented last week, but in light of the concerns that were voiced, the social network site has postponed the changes and will make its decision this week.

The updated privacy policy would clarify that the over 1 billion users of Facebook automatically agree to having their likenesses used by Facebook for advertising reasons, unless they say otherwise. This is not too different from the old privacy policy, which stated that members could control how their names and personal data were used in ads on the site.

Facebook has postponed the revisions to take the time to ensure that it is not in violation of an agreement in made with the Federal Trade Commission two years ago after the popular social media site was caught using members’ faces and names on the “Sponsored Stories” feed without the permission of some members.

“We are taking the time to ensure that people’s comments are reviewed and taken into consideration to determine whether further updates are necessary and we expect to finalize the process in the coming week,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Huffington Post.

Privacy advocates claim that the policy’s revision still violates Facebook’s prior agreement with the FTC because the site is able to use personal information in ads without sufficient explicit consent from members. The advocacy groups, including the Center for Digital Democracy and Consumer Watchdog, also take issue with Facebook not doing enough to protect teens.

Meanwhile, Facebook is also celebrating the anniversary of its acquisition of the popular photo sharing app, Instagram. Shortly after Instagram was bought by Facebook a little over one year ago, many critics did not waste time in letting their voices be heard on the matter, believing that the “establishment” social network site would ruin the app, causing many to abandon it altogether.

However, contrary to the many complaints that were made early on, Instagram’s user growth did not slow down after its acquisition by Facebook, but actually accelerated and has recently announced that it has reached 150 million monthly active users. This is rather significant, given that it took Instagram 19 months from its founding in October 2010 to reach 50 million members.

But that’s not all: Emily White, Instagram’s director of business operations, commented that Instagram will likely start selling ads within the next year. Perhaps once the ads arrive, people will finally declare that Facebook has ruined Instagram. Instagram has also recently announced, but then reneged on privacy policy changes, after which Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom commented,

“To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business. … Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.”

Back on the privacy policy front, Facebook gave its users seven days to comment on the proposed revisions to the privacy policy when they were announced, and the users’ responses were overwhelmingly, unanimously, negative.

One of the top comments – which had received over 7,000 likes at the time of writing – reads, “If, that proposal really is enacted, the first time ANY of my friends sees an ad with any of my information in it, I will be deleting my account, and encourage everyone else to do likewise. You [Facebook] need[s] us. We don’t need you.”

But is that really true? Would people really be willing to give up Facebook so easily if these changes end up being made? Will this revision of the privacy policy be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back, where the implementation of the infamous Facebook timeline and acquisition of Instagram could not? If this incident doesn’t cause Facebook to fall out of grace with the masses, it’s questionable that anything will.


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