A portion of the revised Facebook ad policy, which allows Facebook to sell your pictures to third parties without your permission. (Screen Grab)
Over the Labor Day weekend, Facebook announced policy changes affecting advertising, timed probably so that people would miss and ignore the implications of the changes. The primary change is that now, in a clarification, Facebook has the right to use any content you post on the social network in any ads or site content, without your express permission. The company argues that the rule change is nothing new, but it means explicitly that now, any of your photos can be used in ads you don't Like and for products you do not use. Facebook's new business model now resembles that of spammers, and can lead to very dangerous circumstances.
To give an example of what Facebook would be doing, it is akin to the process of how people got spam email last decade. Back then, a shameless web site would bundle together email addresss it picked up from getting people to sign newsletters, and sell them to third parties for about a nickel an email address. The web site gets a significant amount of money, the spammers get a new avenue to ply their wares, everyone wins except the people with those email addresses, who now have their inboxes filled with sketchy ads.
Facebook's policy would likely be similar, but with a far greater amount of content. They would take the tens of thousands of pictures from a group of people in a given location, bundle them, and sell them to a local or national advertiser on Facebook. Of course, because there is so much content for advertisers to pick from, the value of your pictures are much lower: Every picture is likely worth a tenth of a cent, if that, due to the sheer volume of content.
Of course, because advertisers will not make efforts to know anything about the user they just took pictures from, they will likely place pictures in ads wantonly, partly to persuade users to buy their product or service. However, that can mean that a user's picture is placed for a product they don't even like, let alone use. Worse, though, it can mean that a person's face would be used to sell products they find taboo. For example, a picture of a Muslim or Jew could be placed in an ad selling pork products. A Southern Baptist's face would be attached to a dating site that emphasizes casual sex. An atheist would be shown selling Bibles. This would happen ironically because Facebook's ad policies, catering to privacy advocates, limit ad targeting to only age and gender.
Currently, several privacy groups are taking their case to the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to stop the new policy. Facebook, which claims the policy is to prevent another lawsuit like the one they just settled recently, has allowed for public comment on the new policy until this evening. You can leave your comments on the new policy here.