Facebook to let advertisers republish user posts

Hacker uses Facebook information against victims

January 27, 2011 1:22:05 AM PST
Is it sharing or selling? That's the argument over Facebook's latest marketing tool. It allows corporate sponsors to attach your Facebook profile to their products.

Anyone on Facebook knows about the "like" button. It allows you to share your feelings about a product or a store. But now Facebook is giving corporate sponsors access to your likes through a new feature called sponsored stories.

A Facebook ad explains the feature as "It's your friends saying, 'Look, I did this and I want to tell you about it.'"

Sponsored stories essentially takes a product or a place you like and tells everyone on your friends list about it. But what's new is your posting will look like an advertisement on the right side of the screen, with your photo and your comment, along with the product's brand name or logo.

"In the online world, a company can't take your picture and put it on a billboard without your permission," says Jim Dempsey from the Center For Democracy And Technology. "The concern here is that it makes the individual look like a corporate spokesperson."

Dempsey is with a public policy group that promotes on line consumer privacy. He spoke at a Churchhill Club symposium about the subject Wednesday night in San Francisco. What worries him most is the fact that Facebook users can't opt out of being a part of the sponsored story. Facebook execs insist the feature is no different from a simple recommendation from a friend.

The Facebook video says, "When we make a decision, we're looking for information and we want that information to come from people we trust."

"They're on Facebook for a reason," says Brian Knapp.

Knapp is CEO of Loopt -- a company that also shares information and content with fellow users. He supports social marketing, but with consent.

"You have to build a trust with your users and if you want to drive user growth and user adoption, part of that bargain with your users is having privacy settings," Knapp.

Facebook users tonight had mixed feelings about sponsored stories.

"I don't think it's a big deal," says Alex Lambert from San Francisco.

"I'd like the option to opt out of it," says Ajay Kachwaha from San Francisco.

Privacy and content experts told ABC7 they expect Facebook will change its mind about sponsored stories and eventually give users the option to be a part of the advertisement, or not.