I’ve been pondering the Facebook Likes payout for several days now. It always amazes me that people use Facebook, or any form of social media, but then complain about their lack of privacy or control over what they do on those mediums. Let’s face it, most people do not read Contract Terms when they sign up for these platforms and many people never bother to check their privacy settings to see if they coincide with what they want. I am often surprised to find clients have their profiles completely open to the public and weren’t even aware of it. That being said, we are using social media platforms everyday and still using Facebook more than any other social media networking site. According to DMR we are spending an average of 8.3 hours per month on Facebook and 76% of Facebook users log in everyday. We seem to find value in the time we spend on Facebook. What exactly are we doing on Facebook during those 8.3 hours per month (and remember that’s just an average – many people, including myself spend much more than that per month). One of the most common things we do is Like something on Facebook. DMR states that:
- There have been 1.3 Trillion Facebook Likes since its launch
- Average number of daily Facebook Likes is 4.5 billion
Obviously, we are addicted to Liking things on Facebook. If you’re like me, you often click Like on business pages, authors’ pages, musicians’ pages, organization pages, etc.. Facebook decided that using those Likes to help others purchase products or services would be a great idea and help businesses that were advertising on Facebook. We all saw the Sponsored Story ads where someone we know was endorsing a product or service in the advertisement. Of course, who knows why your friend actually Liked the particular page for a product or service. Maybe they know someone who works at the company. Maybe they received a Like request and went ahead and did it even if they never used the product or service. In any case, Facebook might use that to lure you to try the product or service because your friend did. Good thinking since we absolutely trust recommendations from people we know. Problem was, people never gave Facebook permission to use their name or likeness in those advertisements. Hence, the class action lawsuit brought against Facebook and just recently settled for $ 20 million.
Here’s the part that bothers me…Facebook pages are public and we Like them all the time. It doesn’t really matter why we Like the business, product, service, organization, etc., we just do. We are making a public statement about a personal preference on a platform that is not our private communication vehicle. We do not own Facebook (okay, maybe you bought some stock) nor do we have control of what we deem to be public information such as clicking Like. I will be the first to admit that those Sponsored Story ads were a bit annoying but I do not understand how anyone could assume that they didn’t give Facebook a thumbs up to use their “Like” when clearly they themselves publicly acknowledged Liking the page. Even if we can stretch things a bit and say that it is still not right to use someone’s name or likeness to advertise something without their express permission, what harm could possibly have come to people because of these Sponsored Stories? Understandably some of those who Liked pages were minors. Facebook’s minimum age is 13 and we know that children under 13 have Facebook profiles. I’ll submit that Facebook should not have used minors to enhance ads. Here again, remember that those Sponsored Story ads showed up on your News Feed because you were “friends” on Facebook with that person. You have publicly Liked a page and now Facebook is going to let your “friends” know that. Is there really any financial harm in that for you?
Facebook has done away with the original form of Sponsored Stories and they will pay the $ 20 because of the lawsuit. Maybe each claimant will receive $ 10 or certain organizations may receive the funds. This $ 20 million is pittance compared to the billions that were sought in the case. I am glad that U.S. District Judge, Richard Seeborg significantly lowered the settlement amount based on the fact that actual harm would be extremely difficult to prove by those who brought the class action lawsuit.
Let’s all wise up and acknowledge that we use Facebook because we love to share and understand that there is no real guarantee of privacy in any way shape or form when using it.