Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Am Going to Quit Facebook

Even if it means not being able to lose at turn-based Scrabble or Noggin' to Hipster Law Prof anymore, if it means that I'm going to be a static billboard (silly you, no one walks and surfs the internet):

From the NYT:

As Facebook's website describes its new "Social Ads" program:

"Facebook Social Ads allow your businesses to become part of people's daily conversations. Ads can be displayed in the left hand Ad Space — visible to users as they browse Facebook to connect with their friends — as well as in the context of News Feed — attached to relevant social stories. The social stories, such as a friend's becoming a fan of your Facebook Page or a friend's taking an action on your website, make your ad more interesting and more relevant. Social Ads are placed in highly visible parts of the site without interrupting the user experience on Facebook."

Facebook says that many of its 50 million active users already tell friends about particular products or brands they like, and the only change will be that those communications might start to carry ad messages from the companies that sell them. Facebook is letting advertisers set up their own profile pages at no charge and encouraging companies like Blockbuster, Condé Nast and Coca-Cola to share information with Facebook about the actions of Facebook members on their sites.

As eager as advertisers are to tap into the rich trove of information that people freely offer about themselves on sites like Facebook and, there are nevertheless growing concerns about the privacy issues raised by such tactics. Facebook’s announcement yesterday came just a few days after a Federal Trade Commission hearing in Washington about online privacy and customized ads. The F.T.C. expressed concern that advertisers may have access to too much information about people’s online activities.

Facebook says it is using only information that its members choose to share. And, while the site is using the information on behalf of advertisers, Facebook is not giving it to marketers, said Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer.

Dan Solove has this thoughtful analysis of Facebook's plan to use its users to generate and broadcast ads:

What is deemed to be valid consent to appear in the ads? It seems as though Facebook might be assuming that if a person talks about a product, then he or she consents to being used in an advertisement for it. But such an assumption might be wrong, and the use of a person's name or image in an advertisement without that person's consent might constitute a violation of the appropriation of name or likeness tort.

Hopefully, Facebook will start getting a better understanding of privacy. In my book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, I discussed an earlier privacy misunderstanding by Facebook when it decided to create a system that notified all of a person's friends about new changes in the person's profile. The result: Facebook users were outraged. Facebook thought that there would be no privacy problem since the information was already public. But it was wrong.

I sure hope that with Social Ads, Facebook isn't assuming that if a person publicly says positive things about a product, then he or she wants to be in an advertisement for that product. That would be another grave misunderstanding of privacy on Facebook's part.

Most of the features on Facebook are opt-in, but the feeds are something you have to opt-out of--the default is to broadcast everything and have your profile entirely open and accessible! I hope that the ads are opt-in--if I have to opt-out, then Facebook obviously doesn't care about its users' privacy or right not to have their image appropriated.

I have a growing, seething hatred of Facebook. Despite Danah Boyd's interesting research on social networking sites and my own sociological interest in social network analysis and resource dependence theory, I am growing less enamored of Web 2.0.

These dumb articles on Slate, "Is Facebook the Next Google" and even more stupidly, "How Facebook Could Surpass Google," don't help the cause. I may, like The Dude, have a long term put option on Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking sites. Well, maybe not so far as that. But do you remember all the hoopla about Yahoo and Ebay being the revolution? Hmm?

This could all go south, people. You heard it here first.


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