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Facebook can use your pictures for ads, no permission required

advertisementsFacebookIntellectual Propertysocial networking sitesterms of agreementweb

Facebook, advertisements, social networking sites, terms of agreement, Intellectual Property, web A warning is bouncing through cyberspace today, landing on the Facebook statuses of many of the social networking site's users. The message: "Facebook has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures without your permission." It continues with a prescription of how you can protect your photos.

On its face, Facebook's actions seem like a classic case of misappropriation, or the intentional, illegal use of the property of someone else for one's own use or some other unauthorized purpose. Facebook admits in its terms of service that all Intellectual Property content, like photos and videos, belong to you, the user. But the fine print essentially allows Facebook to do what its pleases with such content, with some limitations.

Elsewhere in those terms of service that no one ever reads before hastily clicking "I agree," Facebook says, "You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial or sponsored content. You give us permission to use your name and profile picture in connection with that content, subject to the limits you place." (emphasis added).

Well, that's not vague or anything. What does "in connection with" these third-party ads (i.e. ads on Facebook but not for Facebook) mean? According to the Facebook-wide status panic about this, apparently it means that your married face could end up on a sexy singles ad.

But Facebook administrators say that's simply not true, and their policy has not changed regarding photos being used in third-party advertisements. Still, the Facebook blog says the site can use your photo for something that you have expressed interest in (say, by becoming a "fan") -- without your permission. Don't worry though, your data won't be shared.

According to All Facebook, the social networking site only allows its users' content to show up on third-party ads if the content is not being cached. But some ad networks do cache data. While many of those networks have been shut down and the site is doing its best to regulate, this is where the major problem lies. In some cases, pictures are appearing even outside the Facebook site.

As underhanded as this may seem, this should be a lesson to actually read the terms of service, vague as they may be, before signing up for a social networking service that wants to use your pictures in ads. That, or don't put up pictures you're not comfortable sharing with people outside your network of friends. In the meantime, you can change your privacy settings. The Facebook ads privacy settings are under "Newsfeeds and Wall."   

--Catherine Lyons

Credit: AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick


Comments () | Archives (17)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Chuck P

I can't wait for the class action lawsuits to begin... from state attorney generals... since this violates the laws of several states.


Thank you Facebook. Thank you for revealing to the rest of us all the stupid people in the world. Because anyone who isn't registered on Facebook can still see who is on Facebook.

It's Big Brother for the rest of us.


Something seems to be broken: the tab to change ad settings is empty for me.


Lunarstudio Architectural Renderings

Is that anything really new? People for a while (unless they're click happy or just coming out from under a rock) realize that FB has had a policy in place for a while.

But only recently has a message in particular been traveling from page to page warning people and telling them to spread the message.


When will people start taking responsibility for their OWN stuff!?
If I flashed my boobs at a sports game I loose the right to get mad if some perve takes a photo.
If you put your writing, art, or photography on the internet there is NO WAY that you can keep an eye on who takes it and uses it.
It seems naive to think that a Networking site like Facebook (or any of them) would personally check the copyright of every image that gets flung up on the wall, passed around then could very easily be copied and pasted anwhere.
Thats why you tick the clear box, saying you own the rights to the picture and agree to distribute it.

I am afraid of Facebook (no name)

I added my own terms of service to my facebook page. Face book hasn’t taken the page down yet, so facebook must agree my terms

James Arnold Allen

Actually, in the State of Oklahoma, if you simply scroll past the terms and click accept - and doing so is conditional to use of the software or service - you are not bound by anything you "did not read or did not fully understand the scope or implications thereof". I love my state. Sometimes.

This of course poses a HUGE barrier to fraud in our state, at the discretion of the court and common jury. Think about it. It is very useful today as it was in Indian Territory.


The fact is, all facebook users deserve this. They've been warned again and again. Facebook has violated their privacy again and again, and the 'users' still use it. Until they vote with their feet, it will keep happening.

Whenever I'm asked by family, friends etc, I myself have personally told them all the bad things facebook can do and has done in the past, only to end up telling them again months later when another facebook scandal hits the net. Partly because they have the memory of a goldfish and they've forgotten it before the next day, but mainly because they stupidly think that what I tell them must be blown up out of proportion and facebook wouldn't really do that to them, would it?

Look at the fools referred to by the article. It says _fortunately_ they had a sense of humour about it. How is it fortunate? it is fortunate for facebook. it is unfortunate for all the other millions of users that these idiots just roll over and laugh it off.

And every time you let these companies get away with it, you reinforce the pattern and make it more 'acceptable'.

Mathieu Plourde

Is it bad if I don't care if advertisers use my pictures? I have posted loads of pictures to Facebook and Flickr, gave them a Creative Commons license so that others can use them, and I don't expect to ever get famous or rich because of them.

In my opinion, If you don't want your pictures to be used, don't let them be seen on the Internet. If you do want them to be used, license them, make sure people who used them respect your CC license, and deal with corporate pirates IF necessary.


if your ad settings page is empty, try disabling your adblocker temporarily and reload the page.


If you don't like Facebook's Terms of Agreement, don't use Facebook. Period.

Facebook Ads

This is all growing pains - while building out the next generation ad platform, facebook is bound to hit some bumps in the road. Not all of the initiates it takes will go over well with their users -- but as long as they listen & make changes as it users requests them, they will have a bigger ad product than google adwords.

im following the development of the facebook ad platform over at http://facebookads.net

Ivan Kresic

The worst thing about Facebook is that they can do with your personal data whatever they want, and even make money off you and won't even share. Now that's just not fair lol


I have a question about Facebook pictures from groups and friends that are associated with my facebook account.

If they allow me to few the pictures, do I have the right to use them, or copy them off of Facebook and post them in a blog or on my personal website?

I would like to use some of the photos, but dont want to be sued by any of the people in the future...

What about the GOVT, which has several groups where they post pictures. Most of the military websites are PUBLIC DOMAIN, which means under the FOIA act you have the right to take any of the pictures or news from any GOVT website. How does this apply if they have started using Facebook as a means to disseminate the information.. Would this still be considered under the FOIA act, and information act? Thats my main objective, is some of the govt groups which post massive amounts of pictures, and news. Can I use their pictures, like I would if they were posted to a .gov or .mil domain?


This is disturbing info :S

How To Advertise On Facebook

I wasn't shock to see it but disappointed, when we allow applications access, we apparently sign off on them using our images. Unbelievable! Thank you for taking the time to bring this to our attention.


The author suggests that we not put embarrassing photos up on FB, but what about tagged photos that other people put up? My husband recently lamented, "Someone can put up a picture of a penis and tag my name to it." I have had to spend time untagging myself in the past. I've been tagged on pics of my nephew, with about eight other people, because that's how his mother delivers these pics to us. They go in our profile that way, even though there's only one person in the photo, there can be eight tags. I have little control, then. I've also run into problems where people who are apparently still in grade school get upset when I and a few others are in a group photo with one half of an ex couple or something. It gets to the point where people are afraid to have their picture taken. It's ridiculous!

Anyway, I hate tagging, and I don't even drink or urinate in public or anything. It might just be a bad picture, or I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings and refuse a group photo at a charity event or something because I knew I'd never hear the end of it or (gasp) I'd be unfriended.

Le sigh. FB is dangerous in PA hands, maybe we should all jump on a different bus?



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