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Facebook “Like” Button Raises Privacy Concerns

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, News, Social Media

The controversy over the new “Like” content-sharing button on Facebook has been gaining attention over the past couple of days. On Sunday, Financial Times reported that Facebook’s latest innovation will allow websites to embed a button similar to the one currently found on Facebook, essentially allowing users to signal content they like on internet sites. The author also suggested that Facebook will be using information gained from this new feature to deliver “highly targeted ads” once the user returns to their Facebook page. If this feature—which will essentially track users as they surf through the web for advertising purposes—is executed, Facebook should prepare to face criticism over potential privacy issues.

It seems that  Financial Times may have jumped the gun with this claim, however, as they have since corrected certain parts of the story. As the updated article points out, “Facebook spokesperson denied that the new tool would allow the company to track users.” Barry Schnitt, Director of Policy Communications at Facebook, clarified in a blog comment, stating: “the Financial Times incorrectly suggested that Facebook is launching a behavioral ad targeting at f8, our upcoming developer conference… As we have said previously, we are moving from ‘Become a Fan’ to ‘Like’ to make the language on the site more consistent but we have no announcements or changes planned to our ad offering or ad policies.” The bottom line: there is no behavioral ad network being launched at this time.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that features such as “Like” and “Become a Fan” require user action. Theoretically speaking, even if Facebook ultimately does launch a behavioral ad network, users can always choose not click on the button and conceal their preferences.  It may be interesting to think about the extent to which a typical Facebook user care about how much information is collected about them and their view on targeted advertisements on the site visited by 200 million people each day.

More to come on this topic at F8, Facebook’s developer conference, which kicks off tomorrow in San Francisco.

About Grace Kobayashi

Grace Kobayashi is a graduate student at the University of Southern California in the Master’s in Human Behavior program She was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and after graduating from high school, moved to Tokyo to do her undergraduate studies at Waseda University. She is working as an intern for the Client Services team at The Search Agency.

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5 Responses to “Facebook “Like” Button Raises Privacy Concerns”

  1. Dave says:

    As a user of Facebook, I figure that as long as Facebook is not giving my information to individuals or businesses likely to scam me, I think that the gathering of that information only helps them serve me better. I would much rather they send ads, connections, and deals my way that would interest me rather than send me stupid, generic, or irrelevant material.

    I will be clicking the “Like” button frequently.

  2. Craig says:

    I think the user action requirement is a critical distinction. I believe people worry most about others spying on their Internet use when they don’t know about it. People probably won’t be clicking “Like” on their favorite porn sites or anti-government militia bulletin boards. As long as the behavior is in the user’s control, I don’t think privacy is really an issue.

  3. George Ellenburg says:

    But NO USER ACTION is required.

    All Like buttons are served from Facebook’s own servers.

    Therefore, Facebook is automatically amassing an entire dossier on the web sites you and everyone else visits.

    And if you ARE logged-in (or log-in at any time) then Facebook will be able to immediately correlate that data to your Facebook profile.

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