The notion that any form of social media could ever be truly private might be a bit of a pipedream, but Facebook will be eliminating at least one feature that privacy advocates never particularly cared for.
“Sponsored Stories,” an advertisement method introduced in 2011 which allows businesses to put their ads in the “stories” feed of users with friends who have “liked” or interacted with that business’ page will no longer be in use come April 9 (existing ads will continue to display for some time, but they will not be updated and no new ones will be created). A class action lawsuit was filed after the introduction of Sponsored Stories which led to a $20 million out-of-court settlement, but the social media giant continued to make use of the ad stream after the suit.
The reason for ending Sponsored Stories though likely is not what those who opposed its implementation were hoping for. Facebook will continue to push target advertisements toward its users, but will be refining the process so that businesses can reach the demographic they’re aiming for more accurately.
“We’re bringing the best of sponsored stories—social context—to all ads,” the company explained in a clarifying statement on January 9. “Since this update makes sponsored stories redundant, we will no longer offer them as a stand-alone ad unit for marketers. Social context will continue to appear with all ads where eligible. Our social advertising honors the audience that people choose, so nobody will see information in social context for an ad that they couldn’t already see.”
That Facebook is merely shifting its targeted advertising strategy rather than ending it should not come as a great surprise; the practice seems effective enough that Google started its own variation of sponsored stories this past October. Those hoping to maintain an air of privacy, however, will be happy to know that the company explained how users can effectively opt out of “social context” ads in the same statement. The Ads Section of Facebook’s user settings gives people the option to pick for whom ads based on their social actions are paired—selecting “no one” and saving the change allows users to keep their “likes” to themselves.