A California judge ruled today that's it's OK to sue Facebook for showing your picture in an ad. That's dumb, and to pretend that it's anything but turns a blind eye to how that nearly everyone uses Facebook.
The issue, according to the potential plaintiffs, is whether we are "economically injured by the misappropriation of our names, photographs and likeness," when Facebook reminds our friends that we gave a thumbs up to Doritos that one time. Facebook, in response, claims that the sponsored posts are covered by California's newsworthiness exemption. Given that you voluntarily put that shit in your news feed, I'm inclined to agree with Facebook.
Here's the thing: Liking something is an inherently public action. Hell, posting anything to social media, in any kind of profile, is basically performance art. Like that story about North Korean poverty? You're like, conscious, man. And that Slate piece? You're an original thinker, too. And yeah, of course you like Louis CK, Arrested Development, and Vitamin Water. (Girls like guys who are into those things, right?)
And there's nothing wrong with using Facebook like that! In fact, you should. But do so aware that Facebook isn't a stream of consciousness existence-dump. It's a curated existence dump. You don't (or at least shouldn't) just toss everything you come across into your feed; you make an active choice about each bit of information you share. If you Like something on Facebook, not only do you know your friends will see it — you probably expressly want them to.
So what, then, is the big deal about a company bragging to your friends that you Like it? It's not that Facebook is blowing up your deviant interests — you did that yourself if you clicked the little blue button. You broadcasted it, now it's being re-broadcast. No biggie, except for when it's framed as the dirtiest phrase on the internet: personalised advertising.
Time was, showing up in an ad — on the internet or otherwise — would be pretty cool. Hey now, you're a celebrity! But that time's passed. Now it's seen as a violation. How dare you say that thing I just said. Grow up. You Liked it. Now you should own it. And if you didn't want your opinion known, maybe you shouldn't have shared it in the first place. [Bloomberg]
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