Facebook in U-Turn over unpopular ad feature
In a recent and unexpected blog post, Facebook announced they will be phasing-out their controversial ad feature, ‘Sponsored Stories’. First introduced in 2011, the feature automatically displays ads to users based on the activity of their friends, such as post ‘Likes’. Hence, should one of your friends like or check into a shop, their face could be displayed in your newsfeed alongside ads for this particular brands.
However, the feature has been a thorn in Facebook’s side since its introduction, with some users even going as far as to sue the
social media giant over the exploitation of their personal data for advertising purposes, regarded as violation of privacy. The case was finally settled last year, but cost Facebook $20 million in compensation. Since then, they have also adjusted their settings, allowing people to change their ‘Ads and Friends’ preferences to limit advertising display.
Not the end of ads
Although the ‘Sponsored Stories’ will no longer appear, this is of course not the end of Facebook ads. Following the case, Facebook have quickly reacted by changing their terms and policy, making it clear that all personal data could be used for ads going forward.
In addition, advertisers will remain free to put up ads in news feeds and on the side panels of Facebook pages, including likes and pictures.
Who does Facebook belong to?
Overall, the ‘Sponsored Stories’ case stands as a reminder of the importance in finding the right balance between producing advertising revenue, and satisfying users. It raises the interesting question of who Facebook belongs to: is it mainly a powerful advertising tool, or does the user experience still come first? We’ll call it a draw, for now..