Facebook 'sponsored stories' privacy proposal: Farcical fiasco

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is again under fire over its privacy-preventing 'sponsored stories' advertising scheme. This time, by a federal judge: A class-action settlement is being criticized because it doesn't actually compensate any of the victims and it doesn't allow adults to opt out of involuntarily appearing in these wretched ads!

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers tear out their hair in frustration over Facebook's continued flouting of basic privacy norms.

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By Richi Jennings: Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Episode VII - A BIG SURPRISE...

John Ribeiro reports:

Facebook...agreed to pay $10 million...to social service organizations and advocacy groups. ... The settlement relates to a class action lawsuit...alleg[ing] that Sponsored Stories constitute "a new form of advertising which drafted millions of...unknowing spokepersons"...for which they were entitled to compensation.


Under the terms of the settlement...Facebook will give users...greater control over the extent to which their...actions may be used in Sponsored Stories. ... [It] will also introduce changes...to make it clear to all users...that their information like names and likeness may be used in Sponsored Stories ads. ... [It] also plans provisions for establishing consent of parents or legal guardians of [minors].


The settlement has to be still approved by the judge.      

Wait, Sponsored Stories? Wossat? Your humble blogwatcher reminds us (and goes on to castigate Facebook):

...if you click Like on a brand's page, your name and photo may be displayed...as part of an advertisement. ... So if you clicked Like on Coca-Cola's page, I might see your name in an ad.


Since when were you a paid spokesperson for sugar water? ... As Facebook's VP of Public Policy, Elliot Schrage, puts it: "Well, it. I-I-I-I suppose, when you s. [pause] So let's pause. [pause] That's an interesting. [pause] Y-y-y-you're asking a profound question."


Think about what's happening here: The head of PR...hasn't even considered what his position is.      

[Link for the YouTube-impaired]

But Wendy Davis says the judge may not go for it:

Despite voicing concerns, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg...didn't say whether he intends to scuttle the deal or [not]. ...the settlement agreement doesn't allow adult users to opt out. ... [It] also doesn't require Facebook to pay...users whose images appeared in the sponsored stories program.


California's law provides for damages of $750 per incident.      

And Consumer Watchdog's John M. Simpson outlines his organization's objections:

Meanwhile, David Kravets looks beyond this particular back-room deal:

[It] provides a glimpse into the dark side of large class-action settlements: ...lawyers get rich...members get little and non-profit groups often reap millions.


In this case, more than a dozen privacy groups and universities...are supporting the plan for budgetary reasons, despite...confusion over the terms of the vaguely written settlement.


The judge did not indicate when he would ultimately rule. ...“I’m going to have to give it a little bit of thought.”      


And Finally...


[hat tip: Angela Kershner]

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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