Facebook Social Ads: Smart Marketing or Invasion of Privacy?

3:00 pm 12/22/07: Johnny went to the bathroom.

4:00 pm 12/22/07: Johnny went to the refrigerator and bought a Hawaiian punch.

(Now, an ad for Hawaiian Punch mysteriously appears on the home page of all of Johnny’s Facebook friends.)

While targeted marketing has been popular for years, the launch of the internet has allowed people to be monitored so closely that it has been reduced to an exact science, allowing internet marketers to run ads that are closer to each other. to the interests and buying habits of a person. . And social networking sites are no exception.

The new face of social advertising

Facebook, one of the leading social networking sites on the Internet, has announced its new social ad program, which is based on the actions and habits of a Facebook user’s friends, as well as demographics. This new program has faced tons of opposition, with adversaries claiming that Facebook is breaking all kinds of privacy laws.

For example, when a customer rents a movie from Blockbuster Video, that information is transmitted to Facebook, which in turn publishes a newsletter that informs all of that person’s friends what the Facebook user has rented and posts the appropriate ads. Facebook also allows companies to buy ad space based on certain demographics, such as running ads on the home pages of all college-age men without giving a list of specific users. This type of marketing has been going on for years, but many are outraged.

Privacy and publicity law

Privacy laws apply very differently to advertising, as they should be. The law as written does not allow advertising to use anyone’s name, face, voice or likeness to represent a product or service without the consent of that person. However, this goes against what Facebook does every time someone rents a movie from Blockbuster. Basically, we are all becoming free spokespersons for the company. Opponents of Facebook’s social advertising system argue that although a Facebook user agrees to share information in general when they sign up, these advertisers are using very specific information for profit, which in privacy law is not an appropriation and is illegal. The fact that the company does not receive a list of users, the identity of the Facebook user is still very publicly compromised.

Facebook privacy policy

One of the scariest things about Facebook is the statement that “we may use the information we collect about you from other sources.” Not only does Facebook use the information it collects from its own site, it goes out and searches for more! In the Information We Collect section, it begins by saying that it not only uses the personal information that you provide, but also the information obtained by interacting with the site. They often emphasize the point of a personalized experience and that Facebook is all about sharing information. While you can opt out of receiving and sharing certain information, there is no big red “Leave Me Alone” button. You must do this for all advertisers. Basically, signing up for Facebook means that you are giving your consent to share information with everyone based on your privacy settings. It also states that you consent to your personal data “being stored and processed in the United States”, whatever that means.

My advice? Please read the Facebook Privacy Policy carefully and if you think you do not want your personal information shared and you still want to join, please choose to keep your profile private and limit the information your friends can see. And if you disagree with the policy and it still freaks you out, see if you can find a smaller site that does the same thing as Facebook but doesn’t use your personal information in the process (for now …).