There was a class action lawsuit against Facebook in August of last year, that was supposed to make sure that the social media company got legal consent for their comments, likes and images to be used in advertisements. But as of this month, it is still business as usual at Facebook.
If you use Facebook (as 1.2 billion people do), the company says that you have consented to have your content used in social ads. Opting out is not possible for some of the ads, and for the others, the control to stop them is buried in the privacy settings in your account.
However, this week, the public advocacy group Public Citizen is trying to increase the pressure on the company to change practices. The group is filing a legal brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and will argue that the settlement is violating the laws in seven states. Their argument is that the agreement should have required Facebook to get permission from parents before using the personal info of teenagers in social ads.
The advocacy group argues that the image of a minor should not be used in any ads unless the parents actually opt in. Public Citizen says that putting the burden on parents to opt out their children is getting things backwards.
One child advocacy group once supported the settlement with Facebook – the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood – but now has decided that the deal is not really protecting children. The group said it was supposed to get $290,000 under the settlement, but it decided that the settlement is not really doing what it said it would do. The group says that Facebook is continuing to collect and use personal information of young people, and this is wrong.
Under the settlement, FB agreed to make a new system for users from 13-18 to tell if their parents were on the social network, and to give the parents control over the use of children’s likes and comments in ads. If the parents were not on FB, the company said it would opt the children out until they were 18.
At this point, the new system is not yet complete, and many people are not happy about it. According to one of the parents who has a 16 year old daughter and is part of the Public Citizen suit, children do not know the full implications of sharing their information on Facebook. She thinks that her daughter is being turned into her into an advertisement for whatever she likes at a particular moment in time, and that Facebook needs to be reined in.
Facebook always seems to be at the center of things, whether it is launching a new app, or the focus of stories saying they are losing users. But we think FB will be around for a looooong time to come.