Facebook has changed the face of the Internet and revolutionized social networking. But, its notoriety has not come without major costs, if not financially than certainly from the target audience. One of its most controversial aspects, Sponsored Stories, is currently facing a serious lawsuit. As demonstrated by the diagram above, one of the primary purposes of Sponsored Stories is to help companies get more attention from potential customers. This is accomplished simply by a user liking a page, which thereby provides potential for their name and profile picture to be attached alongside the ad in another user’s News Feed. That is, unless, this is prevented by the user’s individual settings.
Naturally, this has sparked perhaps the most controversy from parents of young children. For example, a woman named Kim Parsons in Hermitage, Tennessee one day came across her daughters image next to an ad for a local ice cream shop. Parsons initially thought that her daughter had gone to the ice cream shop without her, but later discovered that she had simply “liked” the page, thus causing her daughter’s image to be placed next to it in her News Feed. Parsons soon found out that her daughter had clicked over 200 “likes,” thus causing her image to be used frequently in ads for other products and companies. Parsons felt as if she was powerless to keep it from happening: “I should not have to come in on the back end trying to protect my child,” she remarked, “[T]hat should be understood.”
Heidi Feldman, a law professor at Georgetown University, points out:
“There is a very strong legal case here…I have no question in my mind that as a matter of business ethics Facebook acted entirely unscrupulously. This is bad behavior. They intentionally and knowingly appropriated people’s images without getting their permission for commercial use.”
While Facebook denies any harmful intentions, they have agreed to a payout. Should the settlement be approved, $10 per user could be issued. Although Facebook is seeking to create a proper proposal for court, Kim Parsons has another suggestion: Make the court require that Facebook not be allowed to use the images of minors in ads. If such a proposal is not suitable, then Facebook should have to ask permission to use their image in every instance. It seems unlikely that Facebook will choose to go this direction, simply because of the potential financial hit they could take from doing so and the complications that would ensue with trying to attain rights for every profile picture that would be used.
Is Facebook out just to make a buck, or do they really just want to help companies and businesses to have an upper leg on marketing?
Image Source: Picture 1