Will You Star in the Next Google or Facebook Ad?

Recent updates to Google and Facebook privacy policies give the companies permission to use your photos in commercial content such as ads. Users aren't pleased -- but, at the moment at least, they are almost powerless to stop it.

By J.D. Sartain
Tue, November 12, 2013

CIO — It's no surprise that Google and Facebook have both mutated into 21st century yellow pages. Both are free services that use advertising dollars for operating expenses. But there has to be a line somewhere between dollars and sense — common sense; that is — to distinguish between advertising and exploitation.

You Ought to Be in Pictures, Facebook Says

Facebook kicked off the season with important updates to two legal documents: Its Data Use Policy and its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan summarized these changes in a document titled Proposed Updates to our Governing Documents, but it's just a brief summary of the proposed updates. The long version requires more concentrated focus.

Facebook Privacy

For details, you have to dig deeper. Essentially, the policy says, "You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content and information in connection with commercial, sponsored or related content."

In a nutshell: Facebook can use anything you upload in its advertising arena. It may not seem invasive at first, but when your boss calls and says, "I saw a photo of you endorsing one of our competitors," your definition of invasive will take on an entirely new meaning.

In addition, Facebook wants to make you a star. All you have to do is agree to endorse an unspecified number of ads with your name and photo. There's a huge disadvantage, though: You don't get paid and must endorse these products for free. Since Facebook provides only a "Like" button with no counterpart for the dissatisfied user, you could end up endorsing everything from Gore-Tex to girdles.

Analysis: Facebook Report on Government Data Requests a Reminder There is No Privacy
More: Facebook in Hot Water (Again) Over Ever-Changing Privacy Policies

Add these amendments to the new policy change that says you can no longer hide from Facebook searches — plus the new and improved Graph Search, which makes almost everything you post accessible — and, suddenly, that privacy you cherished with family, friends and colleagues is is gone. It's difficult to maintain a professional demeanor when Facebook pairs your name and photo with an advertisement for Preparation H.

Google, At Least, Lets You Say 'No' By Default

Google Privacy

Google followed this action with its plain-English, Cliff-Notes version that explains how your profile name and photo can or may appear in Google products (reviews, advertising, and other commercial contexts). If you want to control how Google handles your image and name in its ads, click the Shared Endorsements setting link.

I credit Google for making the default response "No." This is indicated by NOT marking the check box that says, "Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads."

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