Facebook's New Sponsored Stories

Facebook is in the news again this week with the announcement of its new “Sponsored Stories” ad product. This on the heels of the rollout and subsequent rollback of granting applications access to users’ home addresses and cell phone numbers. So, what is this latest “feature” and how might it impact you and your Facebook habits?

In a nutshell, this new feature would take various actions, such as Liking, posting a comment on a fan page or checking in and turn them into ads. The program is being piloted with a small set of advertisers, but Facebook has made it clear that this “service” will be available to any company in the future. What does this mean, in real terms, for you, the user? Say you’re at your local Starbucks and you check in. With this new feature, Starbucks could take your check in and create an ad that would appear in your friends feed, with your name and profile photo beside it. You don’t opt-in to this and you can’t opt-out. There are no parameters for how often a company could use your actions or for how long.

Facebook’s attitude seems to be that they are only highlighting information that you chose to share anyway. Which, in a way is true. But, they also fail to see the nuance here, as they seem to do so often when it comes to users’ data and posts. Me, taking an action, such as Liking a company has historically shown up on my profile page and in my friends’ news feeds as a single line – Julie Friedman Bacchini likes Company X, for example. I’m ok with that, I chose to Like Company X. By Liking them though, am I giving them  permission to use me in an ad for Company X as an endorser? I don’t think so, and at a minimum, I should have a choice about that usage of my name.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out…

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