How stupid do you have to be to think you'll have privacy on Facebook?

Summary:Facebook is a free service paid for by advertising. You want to use it for free, you have to accept some creepy ads.

Over the weekend, Facebook quietly agreed to a $10 million settlement in a privacy lawsuit. The money is to go to charity, according to Reuters, though I have to wonder how much is going to the lawyers.

What Facebook was allowing was something called a "sponsored story." Basically this means that the evil Facebook supercomputer uses my friends' "likes" as advertising tools targeted at me. So when I log into Facebook I see an advertisement claiming that my friend Bill likes some product or another.

This turns out to be against the law in California. Maybe it's against the law in other places too. I imagine anything you do in this world is against the law somewhere.

I must confess, sponsored stories are kind of creepy. Clever, but creepy. I was recently on LinkedIn looking at a guy's profile and I saw a big advertisement asking me to imagine myself as the next employee at his company, and right in the middle of the ad was my profile photo. So I sympathize with the five Californians who were perturbed by Facebook's sponsored stories.

But there is a simple solution to the problem: don't use Facebook. Forgive me, but only the most clueless person could at this point expect very much privacy when using Facebook. Facebook is a free service paid for by advertising. You want to use it for free, you have to accept some creepy ads. Maybe this state of affairs can get you in trouble in California, but on my home planet we call it the cost of doing business.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Legal


Steven Shaw used to be a litigation attorney at Cravath, Swaine &gMoore, a New York law firm, and is now the online community managergfor and the Director of New Media Studies at thegInternational Culinary Center.

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