A post on MediaPosts’s “Just an Online Minute” Blog introduced me to Facebook‘s plan to utilize its members as “brand advocates,” adding applications that will allow users to sign up to become a “fan” of a brand. The article is accessible here. This initial sign up will allow Facebook to use these members as Brand Advocates. At first thought, it doesn’t sound like such a terrible idea. Arguably, anybody walking down the street with a Gucci bag is an advertisement for the designer accessory line. However, under the program,
“brands can then send ads to members’ Facebook friends that include the fans’ name and photo.”
This, in my opinion, is completely ridiculous. Posting the brand logo on the users’ profile is one thing, but actually directly sending their friends’ targeted advertisements for the brand is unnecessary, as they did not ask for that. Ads would also be posted around the site, displaying pictures and names of some of the individuals “promoting” this brand.
A follow up post on the Online Minute Blog discusses the legal side of this new advertising program on Facebook. The article is accessible here. Apparently, there is a law that is over 100 years old which bans advertisers from using individuals’ photos in advertisements without their explicit written permission. Facebook’s response? Their Chief Privacy Officer, Chris Kelly, told the New York Times that
“members have no cause to complain because they chose to publicly become a fan of the advertiser.”
Really? That’s all you have to say? Just because members would have “no cause” to complain doesn’t mean that they won’t. They could easily be offended by brands using them as endorsers when all they agreed to was becoming a “fan” of the products of the company and brand. Any users that decide they don’t like being used will have a case, even if they do not win in the end. Is it worth it for Facebook to move forward with this idea?