Sponsored Stories on Facebook: Users could get up to $10 each!

We’ve all seen the status updates and mass amounts of newsfeed posts or messages regarding Facebook and their privacy policies, or how they use our information. It’s been so overdone that nobody really pays attention to it anymore. Until now.

On January 26, 2013, many U.S. citizens who have Facebook accounts received an interesting email in their inbox from ‘legalnotice@facebookmail.com’, regarding a potential to be counted for a $10 settlement regarding the class-action lawsuit against Facebook, on behalf of its users.  I’m sure most of the people who received this message fluffed it off as useless junk and deleted it outright – tossing it into the pile of unwanted fake anti-Facebook spam in cyberspace.

So, why did you get this email? The settlement included anyone who may have been used in a ‘Sponsored Story’ on Facebook prior to December 3, 2012. So what exactly does this mean for you? Well, in Facebook’s own words, “Sponsored stories are messages coming from friends about them engaging with your Page, app or event that a business, organization or individual has paid to highlight so there’s a better chance people see them”. The basic idea is that they were using their users’ activities to advertise products on other people’s pages, because let’s face it – you trust what your friends are into over some random stranger advertising to you, right? That is where Facebook thought they could get a leg up on the advertisement competition and where they inevitably fell flat on their faces—their users were unaware that this was how their information would be used.

As always, however, there is a catch. The settlement email includes information stating that if it is not economically feasible to pay people, they’ll be donating the entire sum to charity. This is most likely what will be happening to your money, and while it’s a good cause, it negates the entire idea of giving the user the option to get recompense for the crimes against them. The reason you’ll most likely not get paid is that, if there are too many people who do claim the settlement, it will become increasingly difficult to pay them out.  Let’s look at it this way: there are over 150 million Facebook users in the U.S., and the settlement was finalized with Facebook being ordered to pay out $20,000,000. That means if every user were to successfully claim the settlement, each of them would receive approximately $0.10-$0.13 total.

Overall, this is great news for the little guys trying to ‘stick it to the man’, but the question still remains: what have we learned? It’s doubtful even with cash in hand that those users will remove their Facebook accounts, and the horrible truth is that we as people are so willing to throw ourselves out there on the internet for (quite literally) the entire world to see, and then get mad when someone uses it against us. There needs to be a shift in mentality back to that of the early browsing days. The internet was originally intended as a way of sharing information and communicating more effectively with one another. If you didn’t want something being read by anyone, you didn’t put it on the internet.

The problem lies with ‘we the people’ and with the ever-evolving state of the internet itself. I understand that technology and society changes and adapts over time, and I am also thrilled that we live in an age where I can communicate with anyone I want as if they were sitting in my living room. There are so many advantages to this brave new virtual world many of us live in, but common internet knowledge is hard to come by. People wouldn’t walk around on the street naked, yet you still hear horror stories of users sending naked pictures of themselves to people over the internet and being mortified when it ends up on a website that their friends will see. People in general have a hard time connecting the virtual world with the real one, and rarely apply the same logic to it – out of sight, out of mind, after all. There is a permanence on the internet that users always forget about, and this is something we need to be educating people on; driving the point home so often that they think twice before posting anything, anywhere on the internet.

But it’s so hard now-a-days to do this when everything is on the internet: from online banking, to social networking, even job applications. We have become so engrossed with data management over an open network that nobody stops to think… is this a good thing? The internet is comprised of billions of users with different personalities, motives, and mindsets. While you cannot control the government, businesses, or other people in general, you can control the private sections of your life and whether or not you wish to share them.

I like to keep this mentality: if I don’t want the entire world to see it, I’m not putting it on the internet. Not even that, but understand you may have a perfectly normal picture of yourself that can be photo-shopped, turned into a meme, and used in any which way some stranger decides to use it. I have a good sense of humour and rarely care about those things, so I got onto the internet knowing this. At the same time, I don’t post pictures or videos online of anything unless I have the expressed permission of those being seen in the video – as a courtesy to them. This courtesy is not always given to others, and it is absolutely imperative that it become a common practice. People need to be fully aware of this mindset.Otherwise, companies and people alike will continue to manipulate those who don’t think about these types of things.

Facebook and companies like it may not necessarily be our biggest problem. However, the issue is how people are willing to give up everything personal about themselves because it’s the status quo. I’m not saying that people do not have the right to stand up for their right to privacy, just that we need to take it a step further and understand just how much information is out there on the worldwide web – be it personal or professional. The internet isn’t something to fear, but there is a give and take when it comes to the information on it, and if we are moving in a direction where privacy on the internet is at risk, we need to either maintain ways both online and in our internal dialog to prevent it – or move society in an evolutionary direction where things we consider private are no longer considered as such. It’s a fine line, and it’s up to us as a whole which way we are going to go.



Full Approved Documentation: http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1154&context=historical

Settlement Website: www.fraleyfacebooksettlement.com

Sponsored Stories: www.facebook.com/help/?faq=19718

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