February 18, 2013
Concerns Over Program Allowing Facebook Users To Promote Friends’ Posts
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
On Friday, Facebook officials announced a new program that will allow users to pay to promote content posted by their friends, but the new service has almost immediately started raising privacy-related red flags amongst members of the media and users of the social network.
The reason people are concerned over the new program is that it does not require the permission of the person who originally published the posts, pictures, or videos that are being promoted, Sam Blum of The Guardian explained.
“Promoted posts don't function outside of Facebook's regular privacy settings, so people who can't normally see a status update won't be able to see posts that have been promoted,” Blum said. “Still, the new feature has already sparked privacy concerns because you don't have to give your consent for a post to be promoted by one of your friends.”
“Facebook says it is rolling out the feature because there was demand for it,” added Jessica Guynn of the Los Angeles Times. “The feature is supposed to benefit users, allowing friends to draw attention to good deeds, achievements or milestones, such as fund-raising for a charity, starting a new job or having a baby“¦ [but] privacy watchdogs say the feature is yet another example of Facebook wresting control of users' information and turning it into a commodity to be sold.”
There is no way to opt out of the service, Guynn said, and costs between $7 and $10 on average, according to SlashGear´s Shane McGlaun. A gradual rollout of the service began last week, but in order for users to take advantage of it, members of the social network must have no more than 5,000 total friends and subscribers.
“If your friend or page meets that condition, the drop-down arrow next to a post will have the option to sponsor it,” McGlaun said. “The way that privacy settings work is if the page for the person whose post you want to promote is set to only allow friends to view it, only more of their friends will be able to view it when you promote the post, in other words no strangers.”
According to TechCrunch writer Josh Constine, the new service builds upon the promoted posts program first launched in the US by Facebook in October. That feature allows members of the social network to pay to promote their own content, as the average Facebook message is only seen by approximately 16-percent of the people on a user´s friend list.
“Promoted Posts artificially boost your posts so they appear in the news feed to people Facebook wouldn´t have shown them to,” Constine explained. “The option has enraged some people, making them feel like they´re being extorted to communicate with their friends“¦ But there are real uses for Promoted Posts.”
“Now you can do the same for friends´ posts, or at least you´ll be able to soon,” he added. “When you see one you think deserves more attention, you can click the drop-down arrow next to a post to sponsor it, and it will reach a larger percentage of the original audience of the post. That means promoting a friend´s post won´t violate their privacy settings. If the post was set to only show up for their friends, your payment will just make it show up to more of their friends. If their post is publicly visible, your promotion could appear to your friends, too.”
Bianca Bosker, Executive Tech Editor of the Huffington Post, sees things differently.
“The expansion of Facebook's Promoted Posts marks another attempt by the social network to make money off its users' relationships and cut through the clutter in the Facebook news feed,” she said in a recent article.
“In the year since Facebook announced its plans to go public, the social network has systematically introduced a slew of tools aimed at getting its members to buy things directly from the social network,” she added. “The social network is increasingly keen to turn its members into customers, and has been working to collect its users' credit card information alongside Instagram photos and wedding albums.”