You probably didn’t know it, but you might have been gaining fame on the Internet as an endorser of a product or organization.  Impossible? Not really, since Facebook just settled a class action lawsuit on Wednesday, June 20th in U.S. District Court in California based on that very reality.

Up to now, Facebook hadn’t told users that their names and photos could be used to endorse a product for which they’d clicked the “like” button on Facebook.  So yes, people who’ve done that have been unwittingly providing free endorsements and helping generate ad revenue for Facebook.

Under the settlement, Facebook will have to make changes to its “Sponsored Stories” advertising tool.  A “Sponsored Story” is one featuring the name and photo of a Facebook friend who’s clicked the “like” button for a product or organization.  For more details on “Sponsored Stories,” Somini Sengupta has an excellent story in the June 21st New York Times (www.nytimes.com, “To Settle Lawsuit, Facebook Alters Policy for Its Like Button”).

Within the next 6 months, Facebook will have to:

  • Amend its terms of use to clearly explain that its users are giving Facebook permission to use their name, profile picture and any content when they click on the “like” button; and
  • Develop and offer settings giving users the choice over which of their individual actions — “like,” “listen” or “read” — they will permit Facebook to have appear in “Sponsored Stories”.

As part of the settlement, Facebook is donating $10 million to nonprofits and several law school programs specializing in privacy.

Keep an eye out for these new settings and I’ll stay on top of this as well.  Now that you know how Facebook may have been using your “likes,” you’ll have more control in the future —in case you’d like to keep your “likes” private, as well as your name and profile photo.