Facebook will finally shut down the controversial “Sponsored Stories” advertising program on April 9. Originally launched in 2011, these ads showed how your Facebook friends interacted with sponsored pages, events or apps, and if users “liked” a page or checked in at a location or event, their picture could show up next to it in an advertisement.
From the very beginning, Sponsored Stories was under fire from privacy advocates. Facebook faced a class action lawsuit over this function in 2011 that alleged that the feature violated users’ rights by not compensating them or giving them an opt-out option. Facebook eventually settled the suit for $20 million last summer, but that, it turns out, was a small price to pay; according to Reuters, the site made about $230 million from the function between January 2011 and August 2012.
However, Facebook’s use of its users’ personal data for advertising will not end just because Sponsored Stories are going away. The site still plans to use several key factors, including geolocation and advanced demographics, to target users with ads.
Sponsored Stories may have stepped over a line by blatantly integrating user information with advertising. If nothing else, Facebook will be more delicate the next time they try to target advertising at their user base.