Thursday, November 08, 2007

Facebook and the Coming World of App-Spam...

The social-networking website Facebook recently announced the launch of its new "social advertising" system. This rollout promises to turn you into an unwitting and uncompensated endorser of products, and to provide yet another new venue for increasing the amount of app-spam that already fills our daily cyberspatial experiences.

The plan, as summarized by Terrence Russell, has three primary components. First, businesses are now able to create Facebook profiles. This is hardly revolutionary, yet it signals the website's continuing shift away from its original vision as an exclusive social space for university students. Second, these businesses can create "viral applications" that people can use and include on their own profiles. Third, and most significantly, those companies can collect data on anyone who uses their applications and then provide it to other businesses for targeted advertising.

It's this advertising component that seems particularly troubling. If, for example, you go to Coke's Facebook page and interact with or install one of their viral applications, your actions will, of course, be publicized in your news feed (which is visible to all of your friends), but Facebook will also attach your name and image to official advertisements from the Coca-Cola Company that it sends to your friends. As Russell points out, you pretty much become "a shill" for marketing companies.

Now when a star athlete or celebrity have their image included in an advertisement, they are usually paid for their official endorsement, and certainly they must grant permission to use their image before the ad is run. So why not the rest of us?

Just because I use an application from Coca-Cola's Facebook page doesn't mean I necessarily endorse that soft drink. After all, no reasonable person would claim that because Tiger Woods ate Cheerios this morning, commercials can now be made with Tiger Woods in them endorsing the cereal. Participation does not automatically mean endorsement.

Another consequence of Facebook's social advertising scheme will be the inevitable rise of app-spam - a cyberspace where not only are you being pitched a never-ending stream of ads by hucksters of all types, but where your friends are seemingly doing the pitching.

People should speak up and let Facebook know that they are not going to be complicit. Two proposals warrant consideration: first, if someone's name and image are included in advertisements, then they should be financially compensated (perhaps on a click-thru basis similar to Google's AdSense), just as real-world endorsements legally require; and second, people should be given the choice to opt-in to social advertising, rather than being forced to opt-out.

In the meantime, however, the beat goes on...
  

2 Comments:

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly...

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/are-facebooks-social-ads-illegal/index.html

 
At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not cut-off...

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/
are-facebooks-social-ads-illegal/index.html

 

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