Recently Facebook started to add in a News Ticker on the right hand side of the screen, so that you could keep up to date with what your friends were doing. They've been rolling this out for a while now, so you may or may not have got it yet - mine keeps appearing and disappearing. Lots of folks don't like it, others don't mind. However, you always have to look at WHY these companies are doing this sort of thing, and it's NEVER EVER EVER for the benefit of users. You have to remember that we're the cattle, so everything is done to benefit the company, be it Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google etc.
In this case, Facebook is sliding in advertising, in a fairly subtle (read underhand and sneaky) way. Adverts - or 'sponsored' are mixed directly into the ticker stream itself. Take a look at the games ticker which I got this morning:
Notice the 'sponsored' line underneath the update, and how everything else looks exactly the same? I went back and took a look at what Facebook said about the Games Ticker. The blog post is entitled 'Making games better', and if you read through it, you'll see lots of fancy descriptions of how helpful this is going to be for you: "make it easier to find new games and play with friends", "We hope these updates make playing games on Facebook even more fun." Odd how there isn't a line in there that says 'And it also makes it easier for us at Facebook to throw more advertising at you."
But we can change this, right?
We are assured that we can delete these if we don't like them. "You're also able to limit visibility directly from the ticker by clicking "X" on a story to remove it." Except that doesn't work. Clicking on the sponsored link allowed me to report the 'story' but when I tried to do this I was taken to the Texas Gambling page where it asked me for access to my account. Sorry - but that's hardly helping matters is it? Facebook also promise that I can "control who can see these stories for each individual app in your Settings. If you want friends to see you're playing one game but not another, you can change that." The settings link that they provide however doesn't go to a games page or an apps page, but just to the privacy settings page. I then have to click on 'Choose privacy settings, apps and games', and I then have to choose to edit these. I then have to choose the app - individually, and if you play a lot of games, that's a task in itself, THEN I choose App privacy, then I choose Custom, and then I can limit to 'only me'. I'm still not entirely sure if that's removed my data from friends games tickers - and besides, when I've done all of that - does that tell me that I can't still have my data used in a sponsored link? In fact - is that even the right place to make the change?
Let's look a little deeper then. We need to go to the Facebook Adverts settings. (That link may or may not work for you) and we then have to click on the tiny Edit social adverts setting link at the bottom of the page. These are the 'facts' according to Facebook:
Social adverts show an advertiser's message alongside actions you have taken, such as liking a Page
Your privacy settings apply to social adverts
We don't sell your information to advertisers
Only confirmed friends can see your actions alongside an advert
If a photo is used, it is your profile photo and not from your photo albums
The kicker line is further on down the page: "So regardless of this setting, you may still see social actions in other contexts, like in sponsored stories or paired with messages from Facebook." In other words - there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop this happening - other than not playing games OR using Facebook in the way that you want to use Facebook. And of course, that's the choice you have - play by their rules or don't play at all. I don't have a problem with that, but what I do have a problem with is their total lack of honesty, their conniving, underhand and sneaky approach, to say nothing of their hypocrisy in trying to sell the idea of forced adverts to us as a benefit.
I can only see more of this happening in the future as we get used to the idea of the advertising. We're going to click less and less often, so Facebook (and the rest) have to work harder, and what better way than having 'Sponsored' or 'Sponsored stories', inserted directly into the news stream? This is also an age related issue as well - some research done recently has shown that younger people are less likely to click on adverts than older people, so what better idea than to simply make an advert appear as another news story, featuring their friends?
Remember - you are not users of Facebook, you're not their friends, you're not their partners, you're their cattle.