Facebook statuses may become ads without any opt-out
Facebook has unveiled a new advertising option for its partners that would allow companies to pull user's statuses and use them in ads on the service. Called Sponsored Stories, stauses of a user mentioning a company would be able to be used by a company in ads to that user's friends.
Users would not be able to opt-out of being used in these ads. Facebook said that check-ins to business and places are lost in our ever-moving news feeds, and companies have no way of taking advantage of the marketing potential these statuses could have. Thus, Sponsored Stories would essentially turn any status mentioning a brand into a potential ad.
In a video promoting the new offering, Facebook product manager Kent Schoen says our friends influence our purchases. "All of us aren't out there trying to market ourselves or trying to influence people to go somewhere or do something," Schoen says. "But the reality is when we make a decision, we're looking for information, and we want that information to come from people we trust."
Advertising is becoming a crucial part of Facebook's overall business: in 2010 the company took in about $1.8 billion in revenues, according to research firm eMarketer. This is expected to rise to over $4 billion this year.
The move seems somewhat surprising considering Facebook has taken great care to appear that it is respecting the privacy of its users in recent months. The company has gotten a good deal of criticism over its data retention and usage methods. Sponsored Stories also seems a lot like Facebook Beacon, another advertising platform that the company took a lot of heat for.
In that case, activity from websites outside of Facebook were culled and then posted to the user's news feed. Several privacy groups including liberal activist organization MoveOn.org heavily criticized the company's efforts, and the fallout resulted in several lawsuits against the company and its participants.
As a result of the class action suit, Beacon was shut down in 2009.