Facebook causes controversy with new policy changes

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  • September 2, 2013
Laura Crimmons

Laura Crimmons

Communications Director

Facebook has made yet another clear signal in its upping the ante on advertising. All Facebook users will have received an email over the last few days letting them know of some proposed changes to Facebook’s governing policies.

The changes relate directly to the ways in which Facebook can use users’ personal information in connection with advertising and sponsored content. This is great news for advertisers as it means that adverts can be personalised even further which should be great for improving the CTR of ads. It also aims to eliminate any further legal action against Facebook where users are unhappy with the use of their personal information alongside advertising.

Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan explained the changes in a blog post on the site which can be viewed here. The key part of the post states:

“As part of this proposed update, we revised our explanation of how things like your name, profile picture and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content to make it clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use our services. We are proposing this update as part of a settlement in a court case relating to advertising and we hope this clarification helps you understand how we use your information in this way, so we included an example of how these ads work.”

The court case referenced relates to the 2011 court case where a group of users complained that their profile photos were being used alongside adverts without their permission. The case was settled with a proposed settlement of $20m from Facebook.

Facebook has provided very handy documents with tracked changes so that you can see exactly what has changed in both the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy which can be downloaded here for anyone interested in the details.

In these we can see that, where previously your privacy settings limited how your data could be used, now by using Facebook you’re granting them access to certain data. The changes can be seen in this screen shot:

Facebook advertising changes

This basically means that Facebook can now be paid by advertisers for the right to display users’ personal information (name, profile image etc.) alongside their brand or product without having to pay any kind of compensation to the user.

The changes however have not gone down well with users; the blog post detailing them has already received over 18k comments at the time of writing this post with the majority being against the changes. Many users have commented to state that they do not want Facebook to show their name or profile photo alongside advertisements.

Although Facebook does state that at this point these are only proposed changes (and invites feedback from users within seven days in the comments on the post) it seems unlikely they’d make any major amendments.

Meanwhile, I also spotted a change in advertising on Facebook’s mobile app over the weekend with advertising now appearing at the top of the News Feed as opposed to just within it, hence drawing even more attention to it.

Mobile app ads

It is a fine line for Facebook between trying to keep its 1.15 billion users happy while also providing advertisers with what they want as, at the end of the day, they need advertisers to make a profit.

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