Messages were spread at the end of last week that claimed that the social networking site had agreed to let third party advertisers use users' posted photos without seeking their permission. Instructions were then given on how to protect personal details via the privacy settings.
Facebook's manager of policy communications Barry Schnitt claimed that the rumours were false and no such change in its advertising policies had been made.
Schnitt said: “The advertisements that started these rumours were not from Facebook but placed within applications by third parties. Those ads violated our policies by misusing profile photos, and we already required the removal of those deceptive ads from third-party applications before this rumour began spreading.
“We are as concerned as many of you are about any potential threat to your experience on Facebook and the protection of your privacy. That's why we prohibit ads on Facebook Platform that cause a bad user experience, are misleading, or otherwise violate our policies. Along with removing ads, we've recently prohibited two entire advertising networks from providing services to applications on Facebook Platform because they were not compliant with our policies and failed to correct their practices.”
Schnitt claimed that Facebook is committed to remaining vigilant in enforcing its policies to prevent bad ads from appearing on Facebook and asked for user's help in reporting misleading adverts or if they believe one violates its policies.
Schnitt clarified that its social adverts appear when a person has taken an express action to indicate their connections with the product or service and that no data is shared with the third party.
Rik Ferguson, senior security analyst at Trend Micro, claimed that in truth it seems there are two separate technical issues at play here, although the real problem boils down to a lack of awareness.
The first issue relates to Facebook Ads and that every user is opted in to this by default, the practice of which has never been effectively communicated to the user community.
Ferguson said: “So although it is possible to opt out, most users are not aware of how to do that, or even that they are opted-in in the first place. So, if you do not want your (no doubt beautiful) face to be used for Facebook Ads, log in to your account, hover the mouse pointer over ‘Settings' in the top right of your Facebook window and choose ‘Privacy Settings'. Next, click the 'News Feed and Wall' link and select the 'Facebook Ads' tab as below, setting this to no one will opt you out. However, this setting won't affect your photos that are being used as described in the next section, contrary to many of the stories circulating around the internet at the moment.”
The second issue, claimed Ferguson, was more serious as advertising networks place advertisements inside the Facebook applications that have become so pervasive across the platform.
Ferguson said: “These third party ads are one of the major ways that Facebook application creators generate income, and they are served up by ad networks who are not affiliated with Facebook. If you give the application the rights to access your information (as indeed you have to if you want to use them) then the ad networks can access that stuff too. That's how you might find yourself being the cover girl or poster boy for a product or service that you never intended to endorse.”
He recommended being careful with adding applications in the first place and if you find you are not using an application anymore, go ahead and remove it from your profile. You can do this by going to 'Settings' then 'Application Settings' and make sure you change the drop down menu from 'Recently Used' to 'Authorised' and click the X to the right of the table to remove an application.