Posted by: garispang | July 18, 2009

Check your Facebook settings: your face may be selling dodgy products

[Cross-posted] I see has walked into another little problem and, correctly or not, has shifted the blame on to developers.

Lee Mathews at Download Squad noted a problem where a Facebook user found his wife’s photo selling a singles’ ad to him. Mathews then provided steps to get one’s photo off Facebook , which Cheryl Smith, the woman whose face appeared in the advertisement, also gave. Mathews’ version is below (original emphasis removed):

All you have to do to prevent this is sign in to Facebook and click through to (get ready) -> Settings -> Privacy -> News Feed and Wall -> Facebook Ads -> Appearance in Facebook Ads and click “no one.” Unless, of course, you want to be semifamous and have your picture used to push some garbage product or website without your knowledge.

Mathews was forced to back-track a bit as it was discovered that this isn’t Facebook’s fault, but a breach by some developers.

Well, Lee, I don’t think you were in the wrong with highlighting this issue. First, you showed us how to get our photographs off Facebook . Secondly, I’m not so sure that your finger wasn’t pointing in the right direction.

Facebook, as you rightly pointed out, made a big song and dance about getting us, the user base, to review its terms and conditions, on the grounds that we should have control over the property that we upload. This was after a big furore when eagle-eyed netizens spotted a term that allowed Facebook to do whatever it wished with our uploads.

 But how sincere is any of this when Facebook, by default, allows our photographs to be pillaged for advertising purposes? I didn’t even know there was an extra tab there (since the settings’ pages change constantly) specifically dealing with invading our privacy this way.

Surely if Facebook were sincere with that review, it would have turned off sharing by default and asked us to opt in if we wished to be semi-(in)famous?

In my case, I have no quizzes installed on Facebook (I ensure they are deleted after I have taken them), but I have seen friends’ images in advertising, so Smith is not alone. A sincere company would not let developers access this information anyway, full stop.

This continues the arrogant behaviour that I have written about in the past with a service that, while “free” (paid for with our eyeballs on its advertising, of course, just like so many websites out there, including this one), seems intent to find ways of making suckers out of us. Perhaps it is a giant curriculum vitæ for folks who, after they finish up at Facebook, might wish to apply for a job at the US Internal Revenue Service?


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