“How does Facebook get away with it all? The answer is  very, simple: We are ignorant. We are too trusting and far too kind when it comes to giving away our personal data. “ (Source: girlmeetsgeek.com)

How would you feel if Facebook took your photo, or a photo of your children and allowed their advertisers to use your image for “social ads?”  This is exactly what happened to Amy*, who had no idea Facebook used her image in such a careless and un-ethical way. No ad is off limits, from dating to laser-hair removal, our faces are being leased out to Facebook’s advertisers. I’ve found that legitimate adveritsers utilize stock photos they own, or a trusted brand trademark for ads. Check out what happened to Amy, below:

 

Amy had no idea her photo was used in this ad. In fact, Facebook authorized the use of her image without Amy receiving any notification.

Robert Headley notified me of the photo and we knew instantly, Amy would have had NO idea Facebook used her likeness. After internet sleuthing and Google Chrome’s “Search By Image” plug-in, Robert was able to find Amy’s photo on an internet meet-up site, and also on Facebook. Amy, a married mother of two, was shown on Robert’s right-hand “ad-panel.” Most people assume those photos are stock images. The fact is, many of the images used are carefully chosen and utilized for Ads, without the photo owner’s consent. Facebook is currently in a Class Action Settlement with millions of users over the “Sponsored Stories” section of Facebook. I received my notice a couple weeks ago and joined the lawsuit. I have no way of ever knowing how my photo was used and when. You can see the full Class Action notice, here. Surely, Facebook wouldn’t be trying to skirt the law again, after such a landmark case?

“A class action lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) claimed that Facebook unlawfully used Class Members’ names, profile pictures, photographs, likenesses, and identities to advertise or sell products and services through Sponsored Stories, without obtaining Class Members’ consent. Facebook denies any wrongdoing and any liability whatsoever. No court or other entity has made any judgment or other determination of any liability.”  (Source: fraleyfacebooksettlement.com)

Since Amy and I were not friends, I paid money to send Amy a message, notifying her that Facebook was using her photo on the right-hand ads.  I paid $1.00  so Amy could see the message right away.

 

I introduced myself immediately and linked to my online presence, so Amy wouldn’t feel I was a creeper….

Facebook had run-ins with the FTC since its inception. In 2011, Facebook paid for their privacy violations with a monumental sentence, to the FTC.

“Facebook is barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information; required to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences; required to prevent anyone from accessing a user’s material more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account; required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information; and required, within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers’ information is protected.” (Source: ftc.gov)

I wrote in December 2011, we were the key to our Facebook woes. By using the free software, we allowed Facebook to OWN our identitites for use in their marketing and advertising. Our information was being sold for graph searches, and more. Facebook’s own “User Data Policy,” leaves very little left for users to ask, however, it’s clear Facebook doesn’t  abide by their own policy. As users, we are automatically, “opted-in” to having our photos, likes, and data used without our permission. The only thing we can do, is to leave facebook. Even THAT is hard. Afterall, a deleted profile is still cached by Facebook and maintains data space in Facebook’s vault.

 

Bottom Line: Protect Yourself

Your personal information is the most valuable commodity you own.  Please consider watermarking your photos on Facebook and make sure all your settings are private. Also, secure your photos and privacy by following the steps outlined in the articles below.

 

Resources: 

Dirty Data: Facebook’s Privacy Violations

Reclaiming Your Digital Persona: Step-by-Step Guide 

A New Year: New Facebook Settings 

Protecting Yourself Online: Articles You Need To Read

 

 

 

 *Amy’s name was changed to protect her identity. 
*Much thanks to a reader for pointing out, that her name was still at the top! :)