RealTime IT News

Facebook Tightens Ad Guidelines

Attention Facebook advertisers: If you don't follow the rules, you'll be banned.

The social networking giant this week updated its guidelines for advertisers to include stricter privacy policies, curtailing the potential for behavioral ad targeting.

It's the latest move to improve privacy protections by Facebook, which over the years has become a frequent lightning rod for critics for its privacy and user data policies.

Facebook's also become home to a growing number of third-party applications, many of which include advertising. The new advertising guidelines, which went into effect Monday, now include the company's long-standing rules aimed at protecting the privacy of the users elsewhere on the site.

"You may not give data you receive from us to any third party, including ad networks," the site's updated Advertising Guidelines read. "Unless authorized by us, your ads may not display user data -- such as users' names or profile photos -- whether that data was obtained from Facebook or otherwise. You may not use user data you receive from us or collect through running an ad, including information you derive from your targeting criteria, for any purpose off of Facebook, without user consent."

The changes come as marketers are using Facebook and other social media as a more affordable alternative to traditional interactive and offline advertising, and recent data suggest that social media marketing correlates to more sales.

But Facebook has also been contending with issues of user privacy, complicating the prospect of, say, targeting ads to users -- long an attractive proposition for advertisers.

In 2007, critics blasted the company over its Beacon advertising program, which sought to promote partners' wares and services by tying users' activities elsewhere on the Web into their public news feeds. The site ultimately apologized for the effort.

Earlier this year, the site again raised eyebrows when observers worried that a change to the site's Terms of Service gave it total, perpetual control over any information users post to the site. The site scrambled to explain the changes, and then moved to solicit feedback on its policies.

In more recent weeks, Canada's privacy commissioner also criticized Facebook for its privacy and data-use policies, such as keeping user information in its database indefinitely.

In its latest move, Facebook said it had been motivated to better safeguard users' privacy, reminding marketers and developers that those who don't comply will be booted from the social networking site.

"To protect user experience and better guide developers and ad networks, today we're announcing that all ads within applications ... must comply with the Advertising Guidelines," Nick Gianos, of the site's platform developer operations and support division, wrote in a blog post.

"Please remember that developers have never been allowed to send user data received from Facebook to ad networks, and we take firm action against this," Gianos said. "When we see ads that undermine trust, abuse users, or otherwise violate policy, we take action to stop them."

In two recent cases, Facebook said it prohibited advertising networks from providing services to applications, because the "networks weren't compliant with our policies and failed to correct their practices."