Viral Facebook Message Brings Issue Of Ad Endorsements Into Spotlight

This morning I’ve received numerous messages from people about the viral message going around the site about how to opt-out of Facebook advertisements. Following a misinformed article by Download Squad from last week, users are now going crazy about their images using in Facebook advertisements. While your image may be used, most users aren’t educated about how they are being displayed.

For many months now, Facebook has been using our friends’ images in advertisements about groups, Facebook Pages, and applications. When it was initially launched, the blogosphere was debating whether or not Facebook’s decision to make consent a default setting was the right way to go. One University of Minissota professor and former Harvard Berkman Center fellow, suggested the ads were illegal. That was in reference to Beacon and what was then called “Social Ads”.

“Social Ads” have now become Facebook ads but the same endorsement feature exists. Over a year and a half later, the masses appear to understand a small amount of what’s going on and it’s being spread throughout Facebook via the following note:

Facebook has agreed to let 3rd party advertisers use your photos in their ads without your permission (and so presumably, forever). TO OPT OUT: Click on ‘Settings’ (in top nav bar, next to logout); Drop down to ‘Privacy Settings’; select ‘News Feed and Wall’; Select tab for ‘Facebook Ads’ and ‘No one’ in the drop down. Save changes and PASS THIS ON.

The Download Squad article was clearly the initial impetus behind this message. While Facebook assumes that the user consents to share this information, that’s not the main issue. Facebook continues to let third party ad networks use your photos as well, and making the privacy setting changes outlined in this viral message will not remove your photos from third party ad networks.

That third parties can use your image without your consent is the primary issue at hand and now that the issue has been brought to the masses, Facebook will need to publicly announce a policy decision. If Facebook decides to prevent third-party ad networks from inserting user images, the effects could be disastrous for third-party display advertisers on the platform and could cost a lot of money for many developers.

It will be interesting to see how things play out over the coming days. What do you think Facebook’s policy should be on third-party ad networks use of user images? Also, should Facebook assume consent by default for using your images in their ads?

Facebook has posted an udpate regarding their policy.

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