The latest step in cashing in on your personal information on Facebook is a doozy: if your post mentions a company or product, it shows up as advertising on your friends’ walls as a “Sponsored Story”, highlighting that company. In other words, they steal your content and then use it to advertise to your friends while pocketing a fat fee. And there is no way to opt out of Facebook’s advertisers using you as their spokesperson, and your created content, to pitch their products.
This is pretty awesome from an advertiser’s perspective. They get free targeted marketing and ad copy from people you trust on your friends list – access to huge numbers of self-sorting market demographics, with unbelievably small long tails and niches, without having to do any research or put in any effort. They are literally using target markets’ own content to sell products back to themselves.
This is pretty appalling from a user’s perspective. Let me say this again: there is no way to opt out. You are stuck with both with having these “Sponsored Stories” appear on your wall with no way to turn them off, and with having your content hijacked without your consent or any kind of compensation. Given the lack of compensation and consent, how exactly is this “sponsored”? Perhaps “Mugged Stories” would be more accurate.
Facebook’s Marketing Solutions’ introductory video is pretty feeble at providing justification to the user. Even while trying to sell how great this is for users, it’s obvious that the only great thing about it is it’s marketing potential. The video basically says “you want your friends to listen to your opinions anyway, so we might as well use them explicitly as ads and throw those ads in their faces in a whole new special wall section”:
A second more subtle issue is the loss of control over what content reaches you even after you’ve put filters in place. Like most other users, I’ve blocked some friends from appearing on my wall. I want to be in contact with them, but they overpost like crazy or include way too many “who cares about that?” posts. Now I have no choice. If Great Aunt Hettie decides to gush about her trip to the mall where she happened to buy Alpoo brand dog food for her darling little Froo-Froo, and Alpoo has bought user content for “Sponsored Stories”, it’s going to show up now on my wall as a sponsored story whether I’ve blocked her or not. Lucky me.
Hurry UP, Diaspora! We need you!