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!



Comments And Reactions

  1. Harold Gardner says:

    OK I don’t like them, but I also understand that FB needs to make cash. I guess that ads somehow, somewhere on the site are necessary to pay the bills. I think about the FB ads sort of like the ads on broadcast TV. I don’t like them, but I accept them; so I don’t have to pay with cash.

  2. Is everyone getting a piece of the 10 mill? I think not but well done them and yes I too will be opting out asap, thanks for the article sir 🙂

  3. Cool, don’t know if I’ve been in one yet, but don’t want to be, at least not without being consulted and agreeing to it. If they did ask, I might be willing, after all I’m not against Facebook making money, but I don’t want all of my interests necessarily posted to just anyone.

  4. Michelle Gilstrap says:

    I say hooray, I’m so tired of having to reset my privacy all the time when Facebook comes out with something new. It is enough already. Can’t wait for the results.

    • We’ll see, Michelle! I’m going to keep an eye out for the opt-in program. The settlement has to be reviewed and approved, first, and then who knows how long it will take the Facebook developers to implement.

      I’ll publish the steps to opt-out as soon as I find them.



  5. Thank you very much for writing this Sean. I will stay on top of this one! Would love to be able to opt out of the feature myself.

  6. Great article! I was able to share this with my friends here at home and I will also share the blog online. Keep up the great job!

  7. My $0.02… get the fuck over it and stop whining about it.

    You shared it. Thousands of other people can reshare it, and that’s OK — including the brand themselves, if they’re following you and take notice and the update is public. But if Facebook dos that automatically, all of a sudden it’s a violation of your privacy?

    It’s the price of free. Get the fuck over it. If you don’t want them doing it, don’t mention any brand names.

    • Well…that would be one point of view. The other would be that Facebook is clearly violating at least one state law by using using personal information for monetary gain without the person’s permission.

      Since Facebook is settling the class action suit AND has agreed to create an opt-out program, I’d say they’re acknowledging the fact that they have crossed the line.

      FYI…while I appreciate all comments and points of view, it’s bad form to comment on other people’s blogs with a bunch of foul language.


  8. Have a Super Sunday!

  9. NewsMeBack says:

    I didn’t know about this info, thanks for sharing


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