Facebook’s Policy Changes Will Mean Your Content Can Be Used In Ads If You Use Facebook

Facebook has learned its lesson about not explaining what content it will use in ads, after that whole Sponsored Stories legal saga that finally concluded recently, but that doesn’t mean the social media company doesn’t still want to use your pretty mug to market products and services to your pals. It’s just explaining ahead of time that it’ll happen, and if you want to use the site at all you’ll have to be cool with that . Oh, and you won’t be compensated. Facebook is free, after all.

In a note called “Proposed Updates to our Governing Documents” on Facebook’s site governance area, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan writes that there are two updates the company is proposing: the Data Use Policy and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. These will go into full effect in a week, giving users seven days to comment on that post and weigh in.

So back to that advertising thing, which is pretty important: As listed in a Section-by-Section Summary of Updates, Facebook acknowledges why it’s updating/clarifying this policy: “As part of a legal settlement, we agreed to further explain how we may use your name, profile picture, content and information in connection with ads or commercial content.”

In that section, Facebook makes it clear that if you use Facebook, your profile picture, likes or other content you share may be used to advertise to your friends (bolding ours):

About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or Enhanced by Facebook

Our goal is to deliver advertising and other commercial or sponsored content that is valuable to our users and advertisers. In order to help us do that, you agree to the following:
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.

If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to the terms of this section (and the use of your name, profile picture, content, and information) on your behalf.

How do you get out of this if you don’t want your pals being served ads touting how much you like Wonder Bra? You can’t, really, unless you want all your profile settings to totally hide everything you have on Facebook from your friends. And then you might as well not use Facebook.

The best it appears one can do is make sure your privacy settings are as strict as can be (see bolded section above) — if you post something publicly, you’re giving Facebook permission to take that info and also share it in public ads. If your settings indicate that only your friends can see your profile picture, that profile picture can only be used in advertisements served to your friends, and not strangers elsewhere on the Internet. At least, that’s how it appears to read.

Your friends might not even know, nor may you, that an ad is an actual ad, as Facebook explains: “You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.”

You can weigh in on all of the above and more in the comments section of this Facebook post for the next seven days.

Proposed Updates to our Governing Documents [Facebook]
Proposed SSR: English [Facebook]
Section-by-Section Summary of Updates [Facebook]

[h/t to GigaOm]