New Facebook Credits Rules Limit In-Game Offers and Rewards to Protect User Data

Facebook has announced new rules governing how games on the Platform can reward users. The rules go into effect starting July 1st when all games must use Facebook Credits as their sole payment platform. Only if developers use Facebook’s approved offer partners will they be allowed to reward users with virtual currency, Credits, or virtual goods for completing hard offers — those that require a user’s personal information, such as making credit card purchases or signing up for subscriptions.

The changes are designed to protect users by preventing apps from rewarding them for giving up their personal information. The trust this protection fosters is important to the longevity of the Facebook Platform. Currently, the only approved offer partner is TrialPay, making this change a big gain for that company. Facebook is seeking to add more partners before July, though.

Unapproved offer companies will only be able to serve soft offers — those that don’t require personal information, such as watching a video ad. Soft offers don’t generate nearly as much revenue for developers or offer providers as hard offers where users submit valuable contact information or pay money.

If developers choose to use an unapproved offer partner, they will only be able to serve soft offers, and may only reward users with virtual goods, not virtual currency or Credits. Developers can still offer users whatever currency, Credits or goods rewards they want in exchange for completing internal offers that don’t involve a third party, such as installing another of the developer’s games or watching a trailer for one of its games.

While these rules will essentially force developers to use Facebook’s approved offer partners, without them it was too easy for developers to coerce users into selling their contact info for a reward. Facebook has taken several steps in the last few months to prevent personal data from reaching third-parties that users haven’t explicitly permitted.

Since the beginning of 2011, applications have been required to encrypt User IDs in HTTP POST headers and only provide their third-party partners with anonymous, unique third-party identifiers instead of User IDs to confirm that a user has completed an action on the third party’s system. Applications can only use third-party ad networks that have signed Facebook’s terms and been placed on a white list.

As it stands now, TrialPay would have a monopoly on third-party hard offers come July, cutting out other providers such as Tapjoy and Super Rewards that are also currently popular on the Platform. Facebook recently partnered with TrialPay, actively promoting its DealSpot in-game offer system. Facebook is considering which other providers it will approve, but there’s no promise that an alternative to TrialPay will be available by the migration.

The rules may anger some developers, but maintaining the user experience and keeping user data safe is crucial to the long-term health of the Platform on which these developers operate.