Over the past couple of weeks, Facebook has rolled out some new changes like it seems to do without warning, rhyme, reason or usefulness. Aside from the one cool ability that we use on our Fan Page, everything else that's been changed seems to just further the frustration and proof that Facebook may not be here in a few years.
One of the things you may or may not have noticed just yet is the "sponsored stories", where Facebook takes the Check-ins from Places - which you shouldn't be using anyway - and turns them into advertisements. Because your friends' profile pictures show up as part of those ads, the idea is that you'd be more inclined to relate, be interested and click on the ad. This also applies to any Likes from websites that have the Facebook Like system integrated into their content.
Facebook is trying to spin it into a good thing but the effects from this could be disastrous. For more on Facebook farming your friends' favorites for fortune, follow the break.
Facebook put this part of their latest update in a positive light.
Currently, marketers don't have the ability to know or plan word-of-mouth endorsements as part of their campaigns. This gives a way for marketers to increase the visibility of stories about their organization... this is word-of-mouth marketing at scale.
While this may be true and my before-mentioned point of seeing friends in sponsored ads may be beneficial for companies, there's a couple of problems with the entire implementation of this program. First, you're never notified if and when your Likes and Check-ins will be used for marketing purposes. You also aren't able to block certain posts from turning into ads unless you manually go in and set the post to private. There's no catch-all opt-out option.
However, Facebook has learned a little from its other failed privacy issues. Only the people you authorize to see your posts will see the ads with you in them. I guess that's a plus and it sure beats the class-action lawsuit defeat that their Beacon project suffered.
We had a feeling this move was coming and with all the websites using Likes on their pages and the baffling growth and popularity of Places, it only makes sense. Facebook is looking for ways to actually make real money and taking the things you like and do and showing them to your friends to get them interested might be the way to do it. I just hope they keep respecting what little privacy they've left us with.