Is Facebook Stealing Your Face?


Sure, Facebook is a great way to share pictures with your friends and family. But there's a rumor spreading around the social network that unless you specifically ask them not to, Facebook can use your photos in advertising campaigns that market products to people within your social network?

Earlier today I got a message from a friend on Facebook warning me of just that.

So, is it true? Can Facebook grab pictures from your Hawaiian vacation and use them for a Delta ad that gets blasted to all your friends saying, "When Jimmy went to Hawaii, he flew Delta and loved it."?

Actually no. Here’s their description of the Facebook program in question (login required).

“Facebook occasionally pairs advertisements with relevant social actions from a user's friends to create Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads make advertisements more interesting and more tailored to you and your friends. These respect all privacy rules. You may opt out of appearing in your friends' Facebook Ads below.”

According to a Facebook spokesperson with whom we spoke, Facebook occasionally runs ad campaigns for companies like Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX) for whom they might create a sponsored group. Facebook might serve an ad on your page inviting you to join the group, and that ad might list a number of your friends who are already members. So if you join the group, Facebook will in all likelihood advertise the group to your friends who aren't already members. Unless you specifically opt out of the program, Facebook will probably use your profile picture in those ads, essentially saying, "Hey, your pal Jimmy is a fan of Starbucks. You should be too!"

If you want to opt out of this program, it's easy enough to do.

  1. Once you’ve logged in to your account, click on “SETTINGS” at the top of your Facebook page, next to where you see the “LOG OUT” link.
  3. Select "NEWSFEEDS and WALL."
  4. Select the tab that reads “FACEBOOK ADS.”
  5. There is a drop down box, select “NO ONE.”
  6. Click “SAVE.”

So why are so many people on Facebook convinced that Facebook is using your personal photos in ads? It seems to stem from stories about third party applications grabbing people's profile photos and using them in ads in ways not approved by Facebook.

One woman blogged about the fact that her husband was served a targeted ad on Facebook that said, "Hey Peter... Hot singles are waiting for you." Next to the text was a picture of the guy's wife.

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