Facebook Ads Break The Law?

    November 9, 2007

Social networking site Facebook’s new advertising program "Social Ads" may be illegal because it violates a little known 100-year-old New York privacy law.

William McGeveran

William McGeveran, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School says that the New York privacy law was created to protect individuals from having their names and images used for advertisements without their consent. The law requires written consent from an individual before their name or likeness can be used for advertising purposes.

McGeveran says that Facebook users are only asked in general if they want to share information and not if they want their name and picture to be used in an ad for a product.

On his blog he writes, "I don’t see how broad general consent to share one’s information translates into the specific written consent necessary for advertisers to use one’s name (and often picture) under this law. And the introduction of Facebook’s sales pitch about the program to advertisers leaves little doubt that individual users’ identities will be appropriated for the benefit of Facebook and advertisers alike."

Facebook Ads Break The Law?

Chris Kelly, the chief privacy officer of Facebook says that McGeveran’s interpretation of the law was too broad. He said the advertisements are a representation of the actions users have taken such as deciding to tie themselves to a product.

"We are fairly confident that our operation is well presented to users and that they can make their own choices about whether they want to affiliate with brands that put up Facebook pages," Mr. Kelly told the New York Times.