Facebook's proposal to allow users who click the "Like" button to opt out of online ads that use their names and faces to promote products is a good step forward, but doesn't go far enough, says Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.
The proposal is part of a settlement of a class-action suit in California U.S. District Court in which Facebook users sued the social-media service for the fact that, without notification, they found their faces and names showing up in ads, as Facebook's current policies allow.
The agreement will become effective if approved by a U.S. District Court on July 12. Our advocates say the proposal is a step in the right direction, but needs to be expanded.
"While Facebook is giving consumers some controls they ought to have, we are seriously concerned the default settings still allow use of names and photos for marketing campaigns without express consent," says Ioana Rusu, regulatory counsel for Consumers Union.
Rusu also worries about how readily many Facebook users will succeed in actually opting out. "Changing your privacy settings [on Facebook] is already confusing enough, which may undermine Facebook's solution to this problem," she says. (If you need help with your settings, be sure to view our video.)
Rather than opting out of the use of information for promotion, Rusu says, "it would be more fair to consumers if Facebook had to get your permission before using your information."
Even if the settlement goes through, many other causes for concern over Facebook users' privacy remain, as highlighted in our June report, Facebook and your privacy.
As part of the settlement, Facebook also agreed to donate a total of $10 million to a number of non-profits that focus on privacy issues. The list originally included Consumer Reports, but we turned down the award. "In light of our current high-profile work concerning Facebook, we decided to decline the funds," explains Christopher Meyer, Consumer Reports' vice president of external affairs. "This was not a reflection on the merits of the settlement."