Facebook Social Ads: How To Manage Privacy

Facebook has tweaked its terms of use that affect use of your picture in social ads. Here's how to adjust settings accordingly.

Kristin Burnham

September 3, 2013

4 Min Read
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10 Facebook Features To Help You Get Ahead

10 Facebook Features To Help You Get Ahead

10 Facebook Features To Help You Get Ahead (click image for larger view)

A San Francisco judge approved a $20 million settlement last week that resolved claims that Facebook featured users' images in its Sponsored Stories advertisements without payment or permission. More than 600,000 Facebook users will be awarded about $15 each; the remainder of the money -- about $6 million dollars -- will go toward attorneys and privacy groups.

Facebook privacy has long been a hot-button issue and often a point of contention between the social network and its users. But instead of ceasing its use of user data in advertisements following the settlement, Facebook changed its Data Use Policy and Statements of Rights to make that practice legal.

Late last week, Facebook issued changes to these two documents. In a blog post highlighting the changes, Erin Egan, chief privacy officer at Facebook, said that they are intended to provide users more clarity on how Facebook uses users' data.

[ How can your privacy settings protect you from nosy Facebook searchers? Read Three Facebook Privacy Settings to Check. ]

"As part of this proposed update, we revised our explanation of how things like your name, profile picture and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content to make it clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use our services," she said. "We are proposing this update as part of a settlement in a court case relating to advertising and we hope this clarification helps you understand how we use your information in this way, so we included an example of how these ads work."

According to the updated document, Facebook users now agree to permit businesses to pay the social network to display your name and profile picture with your content or information without any compensation to you.

Facebook said that your current privacy settings will apply to social ads, such as Sponsored Stories. These are messages that come from friends about them engaging with a page, app or event that a business, organization or individual has paid to highlight. Social actions may also be paired with traditional Facebook ads, which are only visible to your confirmed friends.

Say, for example, you liked Starbucks on Facebook. Your news feed privacy settings determine who sees that activity. After you have liked the page, Facebook could pair that action with your profile picture and use it in a social ad. This ad will only be visible to your friends who could see that you liked the Starbucks page to begin with. This is why your privacy settings are especially important.

How to Find and Adjust Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Facebook does not give you much leeway in controlling which of your actions appear in ads, but you do have two options that can help. Your first is to adjust the overall setting that determines who sees your future posts. This includes all your actions on the social network, from liking a brand's page to posting a photo album to commenting on friends' photos. Find this by clicking the gear icon at the top right of your screen and selecting "Privacy Settings."

In the section "Who can see my stuff?" click the first option, "Who can see your future posts?" Traditionally, this setting is set to Friends. Click the drop-down menu to change the audience. This option is customizable, which lets you include or exclude certain lists and friend groups. If you change this setting to exclude certain friend groups, note that although they won't see ads including your activity, they won't see anything else from you, either, including when you update your status or add photos.

Your second option is to individually remove certain stories by unliking a page or deleting a comment on a page, for example, if you don't want the brand to use your activity in an ad. This is a tedious process, but Facebook offers good advice to heed in the future: "If you aren't comfortable with who can see the post, don't like it or comment on it."

Use your Activity Log to review the pages and posts you have liked and commented on. This button is located on your profile page at the bottom of your cover photo. In your activity log, use the menu on the left to sort your activity by Likes and Comments. Click the pencil icon to individually unlike a page or remove a comment.

About the Author(s)

Kristin Burnham

Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

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