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My good friend David Harley just blogged about Facebook’s brand new way to misappropriate your data without your consent.
Alas, in underestimating how far Facebook will go to attempt to avoid allowing you to control your privacy, David missed the second setting that is required if you do not want Facebook to decide what companies your name and face are used to endorse.
You see when you go to “account settings” and then the Facebook Ads tab, only one of the two settings will show up on most computers. You actually have to scroll down to the bottom of the page in order to access the setting that makes you an unwitting and unpaid spokesperson for some advertiser that you may or may not wish to publicly endorse.
The design of the Facebook Ads page appears to be done to deliberately disguise that there is another privacy setting down below. That is precisely why there is a “Save Changes” button strategically located in a position that is design to induce users into assuming they have taken care of everything.
Am I being unfair to ascribe unsavory intent? I don’t think so. If you look at the “Notifications” tab you will see numerous settings, however you do not get to the “Save Changes” button until you have reached the bottom of the page. It seems pretty clear why Facebook designed the “Facebook Ads” page they way they did. Facebook wants to maximize advertising revenues by quietly pre-opting people into programs and making it tricky to find out how to opt out of.
There are two ways to make yourself look good. One way is to do really good things, the other way is to make others look even worse. Regardless of justification or lack thereof, used car salesmen and lawyers have long been the butt of jokes about sleaziness. The used car salespeople and lawyers of the world must be thrilled with the Facebook marketing department for making them look so darned decent :)
Director of Technical Education
Cyber Threat Analysis Center
ESET North America
Author ESET Research, ESET