Facebook. The majority of Americans are on it, as shown in our Edison Research/Arbitron Social Habit 2011 study. And as social networking continues to take hold across all demos, the popular site faces new challenges and questions about privacy and the use of images for advertising purposes.
I recently came across an Advertising Age article that cited recent litigation against Facebook from parents concerned about the use of their children’s images when “liking” brands or products, and if use of the site constitutes consent. The argument is that the social networking giant is actually breaking the law and using names and images to endorse products or services without user approval – especially when the user is a minor.
Since “liking” something on Facebook generates the user’s name and profile image to show not only to his or her friends but also to anyone viewing the page that the user liked, the site is a marketer’s dream. That same core marketing strategy, however, is raising red flags to parents, because there is no parental consent for the use of profile images in promoting a page. A user can manage their privacy settings to keep their info contained among friends only on a Facebook News Feed, but there are no such settings in place for the actual page that was liked. Facebook calls this “connecting” to a brand or product, but is it actually endorsing?
We will have to wait and see how these legal battles play out for Facebook and if the courts are more sensitive because it involves many users who are under eighteen years old. Regardless of the outcome, the privacy issue is not likely to go away. Whether it be personal photos, likes or general information to third parties, users and particularly parents will continue to question the intent and procedures of Facebook.
In our forthcoming Moms and Media 2011 report, which is derived from the 2011 Edison Research/Arbitron Internet and Multimedia study, we looked at Facebook usage of Moms as well as their concerns about privacy on the site. We found that Moms are very active on Facebook, with 62% saying they have a profile page. Interestingly, despite their active presence on the site, Moms do echo these privacy concerns. About 50% said they are Very Concerned or Somewhat Concerned about their personal information on Facebook. Will there become a point when the concern outweighs the site interest? All we can say is it hasn’t happened yet.