Facebook Is Changing the Rules So It Can Keep Selling Your Face

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Use Facebook? You could be famous — and make the company money without earning a dime yourself.

A couple years ago, the company got in trouble for this. Facebook started posting “sponsored stories” asserting that a user’s friends liked certain brands, and it included those friends’ names and photos without asking for permission, CNET says.

That led to some bizarre situations, like this one described by Credit.com:

A couple of years ago, Cheryl Smith had her photo used in a singles ad displayed to her “friend” Peter.

“Hey Peter,” the ad said, with Cheryl’s smiling face on top. “Hot singles are waiting for you!!” Peter might still have dismissed the advertisement, but for one thing. Cheryl is his wife.

Many saw it as a privacy issue. It led to a class-action lawsuit, which was settled this week for $20 million, Credit.com says. (Those who were affected will get about $15 each someday, probably after they’ve long forgotten about it.)

As part of the settlement, Facebook agreed to clarify its policies — but it’s not really changing them, and the settlement sort of legitimizes them. The judge who approved the settlement went so far as to say that “it is far from clear (plaintiffs) could ever have shown they were actually harmed in any meaningful way,” according to Credit.com. Here’s what the key proposed revision to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities says:

You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.

An existing line of the policy says that “you understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.” It sounds like, then, that Facebook can pretend you actively promote companies that are actually paying it to use your face, and nobody has to give you anything in return. Remember, Facead is free and always will be.

There’s no way to opt out, Credit.com says, short of quitting Facebook. You have a few days to comment on the proposal, and then, “as always, [Facebook] will carefully consider your feedback before adopting any changes.”

The best you can do is tweak your privacy settings, which Facebook says it will respect, to make sure nothing you post is available publicly. That should minimize the number of people who see such ads, but chances are, your face is still going to be digitally shilling products to your friends. So remember not to “like” anything you wouldn’t want them to see.

What do you think about this? Share your thoughts on — yeah, we know — our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • John Brown

    “Selling your face”??? You’re missing the forest for the trees, here. “CONTENT” means posts, which equate (on thousands of art and
    photography pages) to copyrighted material, now to be legally available to Facebook for commercial purposes without notice or compensation.
    It’s no wonder this “notice” is buried under links from Facebook’s Site
    Governance page.

  • Connie Stennett

    Face Book, you know as well as I do that the majority of those on your site either do not read, or do not understand the legalese in your policies. You are duping your users, and you are relying on that to share information that your users have no idea that they have given you permission to do.

    Any entity, including FB, should NOT have this type of policy in place. Individual consent, and compensation for each sharing of information or promotion should be demanded. Too many people, too many companies and too many government agencies know way too much information about us already. When I see that so and so friend likes such and such, does NOT mean that I like it. Even friends have different interests. Our privacy must be respected!
    Not to long ago, I saw a news story on TV that said that FB does not share information. That is a lie! The FB spokesman even went so far as to say that it was not even possible to retrieve information, if I remember correctly. That is a lie. The “you might be interested in…” nearly always is related to things that I have liked or sites that I have visited. So you say that you cannot retrieve info? Lie! The “people you might know” feature, I do like this, proves again that you are retrieving info from my account.
    If more people knew what you are already doing, and what you are trying to expand on, I am sure that many would agree with me.

    Sincerely,
    Mad and unhappy!

    • Nancy Walton

      This is completely unacceptable. Why would anyone knowingly consent to be in an advertising commercial while waiving their right to compensation, instead letting the advertiser pay someone else for YOUR image, YOUR opinions, details about YOUR life? It’s so devious, underhanded, so WRONG on so many fundamental levels. I refuse to be “prostituted out” by a greedy corporate pimp! It’s OVER!

      I hereby UNLIKE Facebook.
      They can take THAT to the bank……

      Horrified and disgusted,

  • Dale

    Well, the “founder” was a creepy lying little sneak thief in college and it looks like he hasn’t changed.

    How much more money do you need, you creep??

  • Kent

    Corporate America cannot be trusted.

  • Blair_Bishop

    After years of grief by my uber-educated, ultra liberal neighbors for not being “with it”…….I’m feeling vindicated for my refusal to succumb to the temptation to violate my own privacy:-)

  • bookluvr

    Well, crud.

  • Truenorican

    Just abandon FB, I did.