Opting-Out Of Facebook Sponsored Stories May Be On The Way

In 2011, Facebook announced a new advertising program called “Sponsored Stories” that basically told your friends what you were doing in the form of an advertisement. For instance, if I posted “Grabbing my third cup of coffee from Starbucks today. Watch out co-workers!” as a Facebook status update, then Facebook could re-purpose that post and and add this advertisement to any of my friends’ news feeds:

Facebook will soon ad sponsored stories to your Facebook feed. Do you care?

Unfortunately, regardless of whether you liked being a pawn in Facebook’s advertising game, there was no way to opt-out of being part of the program. In face, Facebook’s FAQs clearly indicate that opting out wasn’t an option.

Facebook makes it clear that you cannot opt-out of sponsored stories

Basically, Facebook was monetizing your activities in a way that they felt was meaningful to your friends and, without cancelling your Facebook account, there was nothing you could do about it.

That is until a group of Facebook members banded together and filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that Facebook was violating California law by using private information for monetary gain without compensating them or giving them a way to opt-out of the program. The case, Angel Fraley et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated vs. Facebook Inc., 11-cv-1726, was argued in U.S. District Court of Northern District of California and the judge is currently reviewing the proposed settlement.

Reuters is reporting that the proposed settlement offers $10 Million in damages and an agreement to provide an opt-out option for the program. The settlement would be a great step forward for Facebook in acknowledging that it can’t just monetize people’s activities without their permission. It’s would also be a pretty hefty shot to the social networking Goliath that is estimating that it could lose $103 Million when the changes are implemented.

Dear Facebook - Just Because We Share Something Doesn't Mean You Should Monetize It.

The message that this sends to the big social networks is just because I share it…doesn’t mean you get to monetize it.

I know for sure that I’ll be opting out of the program once the option is available. I’ll keep an eye out for updates to the case and if/when an option to remove your account from participation in the program is made public, I’ll be sure to share the steps.

Funny Fact: If the case settles for $10M and the lawyers take 20%, that will leave $8M for the class to divide equally. Social Bakers estimates that there at 21,195,000 people in California on Facebook. Dividing that $8M between the class would result in each member receiving $.37. Too funny!

Hate these kinds of ad programs or have an experience with Facebook sponsored stories? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Cheers!

–Sean

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