Nordic countries tell Facebook to stop ads

Nov 22, 2012
Acomputer screen displaying the logo of social networking site Facebook reflected in a window before the Beijing skyline in May. Facebook should stop unsolicited advertising to users in Nordic countries or face legal action, the Norwegian consumer agency said on Thursday.

Facebook should stop unsolicited advertising to users in Nordic countries or face legal action, the Norwegian consumer agency said on Thursday.

The agency, like its counterparts in the Nordic region, wants to put an end to the unsolicited advertisements that appear on users' news feeds.

It has sent a letter to the European Commission to determine whether is in line with the EU's directive on privacy and —and possibly to make amendments to rules drawn up before Facebook was founded.

"It is prohibited to send electronic advertisements to consumers who haven't given their consent, either by email or SMS," consumer Gry Nergaard told AFP.

"We think that some of the advertising that Facebook calls 'sponsored stories' is beginning to look like unsolicited electronic messages," she said.

Depending on the response from European authorities and Facebook, Norwegian officials may undertake legal action to put an end to the practice.

"Sponsored stories" are advertisements that show up on a Facebook user's page informing him or her that one of his contacts, or "friends", whose name and or photo may also appear, "likes" a product, giving the false impression that the product or company is being endorsed by the friend.

"It has evolved even further," Nergaard said. "Now you can receive an advertisement without the mention that your friend 'liked' it," she said.

Facebook, which is hugely popular worldwide but is struggling to generate , claims it is abiding by European and Norwegian laws.

Its spokesman in , Jan Fredriksson, said users could choose to block this type of advertising in their settings.

But Nergaard said it was not enough to provide an "opt out" option, the key issue was that Facebook did not have users' prior consent.

The European Commission was to examine the issue in the near future, she said.

Facebook in June settled a $10 million lawsuit from users in the US who claimed their names, images and other information were improperly used in "sponsored stories".

Explore further: Expanding the breadth and impact of cybersecurity and privacy research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Facebook settles US suit on 'sponsored stories'

May 22, 2012

Facebook has settled a lawsuit alleging the social network improperly used members for advertising purposes without their consent in so-called "sponsored stories," court documents showed Tuesday.

Facebook pays $10 million to settle ad suit

Jun 18, 2012

Facebook will pay $10 million to settle a lawsuit from users who claimed their names, images and other information were improperly used in advertising described as "sponsored stories," court documents showed.

Facebook to let advertisers republish user posts

Jan 26, 2011

(AP) -- Facebook users who check in to a store or click the "like" button for a brand may soon find those actions retransmitted on their friends' pages as a "Sponsored Story" paid for by advertisers.

Privacy groups ask FTC to investigate Facebook

Sep 29, 2011

(AP) -- Nine privacy groups have sent a joint letter to the Federal Trade Commission saying it should investigate the ways Facebook collects data about users' online activity after recent changes to its site.

Recommended for you

US warns retailers on data-stealing malware

6 hours ago

US government cybersecurity watchdogs warned retailers Thursday about malware being circulated that allows hackers to get into computer networks and steal customer data.

Irish bookmaker apologizes for 2010 data breach

6 hours ago

(AP)—Irish betting company Paddy Power announced Thursday it is notifying hundreds of thousands of customers that most of their profile information was stolen in 2010, but hackers did not gain their credit card details ...

Misinformation diffusing online

9 hours ago

The spread of misinformation through online social networks is becoming an increasingly worrying problem. Researchers in India have now modeled how such fictions and diffuse through those networks. They described details ...

User comments : 13

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lurker2358
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 22, 2012
It's not going to happen, because the "unsolicited ads" are Facebook's primary source of income. In fact, the site would probably have no net profits without them.

The ads are the entire purpose of the site, from the administrators' and owner's points of view. The "service" is just the attraction to get you to look at ads.

Personally, It wouldn't hurt my feelings if Facebook went bankrupt, given the fact I knew it was a bad investment and a bad move both for their part and the investors back when they went public. I think the whole thing was just a con game to try to see how much money they could bilk from the public before everyone else realized how worthless it was as an investment. The advertising agency IS Facebook. The gossip engine is just the attraction.

anyway, you can't actually expect a company who makes their money by providing no material service or product to discontinue their only source of income; May as well ask a cocaine dealer to go "legit".
Jeweller
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 22, 2012
Facebook are doing the same thing here in South Africa too. In my opinion, it associates Facebook and the advertiser with dishonesty, and it is an insult to the Facebook user.
Had they been upfront and honest about needing to advertise on users pages in order to keep their business going, it would have been more easily acceptable and understandable.
They chose to go the underhand route and that's just plain dishonesty.
Lurker2358
5 / 5 (4) Nov 22, 2012
It's their internet site.

They provide a free service, albeit pretty stupid one, to the user. If the user doesn't like the conditions, just leave.
ryggesogn2
4 / 5 (4) Nov 22, 2012
If users don't like the ads I'm sure they would be willing to pay for a subscription to access.
antonima
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 22, 2012
This is silly, of course they are allowed to advertise on their own site. The fact that they use 'likes' is a clever way to advertise, but still, they really could be more blunt because after all they are providing a free service. Perhaps they are trying to maximize their fan base and build loyalty in the first decade or so, so that when they really roll out the ads people won't leave.
Parsec
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2012
If the Nordic countries want to prohibit this practice, they are for all intents and purposes shutting down facebook in those countries. It would be the same as if they prohibited advertising on commercial TV. The TV stations would simply go out of business, and their consumers would not have access to them.

I am curious how this will go, and if authorities will incur the wrath of the angry users deprived of the service.
gwrede
not rated yet Nov 25, 2012
It's not about if there should be advertising or not on Facebook. It's about the blatant lying, cheating and deliberate misleading in the ads. But since the latter is harder to define, these countries attack them on the grounds of no prior consent from the user, as the law in Europe seems to expect.

In the last years, Facebook ads have grown ever more callous and unscrupulous. There's the "you have won" con, the "like this and win a (whatever)" where they give the impression that you have a real chance of winning, but where all the likes of hundreds of millions are secretly put together in all the campaigns in dozens of countries, essentially setting the chance to nil; the "Jenna wants to add you in her birthday calendar" trick, where the adveritser gets access to all your private and friend settings and to some extent their's too.

Not to mention the best of them all, the IQ-test, "98.8 can't get this right: what is 25/5?" where a wrong answer qualifies you for stage two of their con
gwrede
not rated yet Nov 25, 2012
(cont.) where usually you have to pay something up front to get into some shady scheme which ultimately is not much better than Nigerian Letters.

That almost everybody in a nation sees this kind of advertising (including the non-adults Facebook wants to have there but pretends not to) will inevitably change the prevailing attitudes about how you treat other people in general in your life.

So, people in the Nordic countries can't understand that a young man gets filthy rich corrupting the morals of most of the Western world. But make no mistake, getting filthy rich _without_ corrupting the morals, is OK with them.

Needless to say, I agree.
gwrede
not rated yet Nov 25, 2012
Actually, there's an even bigger issue at hand here. These advertisers are often multinationals, and their entire revenue come from different small cons, where the dissatisfied customer loses an amount that is just below the threshold where you'd try legal action against an overseas adversary. This is one more reason to choose the most intellectually challenged, they usually cant afford a lawyer nor even know any of their rights.

The real culprit here is actually the lack of any change in international law since the "the Internet started" (i.e. when WWW became a household word). If suing a faceless entity on Cayman Islands for dubious business practices was as easy as suing the bakery next door for having sand in the bread, all of these problems would vanish overnight.

Incidentally, this is one of the premiere implicit reasons for having an EU in the first place. But progress on this front has remained entirely nonexistent.

Let's hope the Norwegians succeed, at least a little!
gwrede
not rated yet Nov 25, 2012
Ah, a disclaimer: Last time I was in the US, I didn't have a Facebook account, so it may well be that the ads there are more tame and benign, for all I know. This would be because of the legal system where you can sue a car manufacturer for having a wide angle rear mirror and a coffee bar for selling freshly cooked coffee, both without terrible warning stickers. So this may well be a European problem.
Lurker2358
5 / 5 (1) Nov 25, 2012
It's not about if there should be advertising or not on Facebook. It's about the blatant lying, cheating and deliberate misleading in the ads. But since the latter is harder to define, these countries attack them on the grounds of no prior consent from the user, as the law in Europe seems to expect.


Ah. That's actually not a Facebook issue, that's a morality issue.

You just described nearly every television or radio commercial advertisement I've ever seen, ranging from Advil to Zoloft and everything between.

"...9 out of ten doctors prescibed our brand over brand Y..."

"...but wait, if you call right now we'll double the offer...free!...that's a 100 dollar 'value' free just call now..."

Those are just a few blatant lies. The lies implied by other means are too many to number.

Capitalism relies on lies.

You don't have to make the best product. You just have to lie about it enough so everyone believes it's the best product.
Lurker2358
not rated yet Nov 25, 2012
Besides prescription medicines (because they're required to,) when was the last time you saw a commercial ad where they actually told you everything that was WRONG with their product?

like this.

-Our product will probably break a day or two after the warranty expires.
-Our product doesn't work half as well as our dramatization implies.
-Our product is not significantly better than our competitors.

If everyone was required to tell the truth about their product, the whole system would collapse, because they'd be required to tell you the competitor's product is better or cheaper or both.

Collapsing the system might be a good thing.

Oh yes, I tire of all the lies.

U.S. capitalistic commercial ads have been nothing but lies for all my life. I used to laugh at the absurdity of the lies of the ads, and make jokes about it, but it is not a laughing matter. It shows the top-to-bottom immorality of our people and of Capitalism.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Nov 25, 2012
If everyone was required to tell the truth about their product,

But the govt NEVER lies about its products.
The 'progressives' promised to end war, poverty,...
Obama promised his health care plan would not cost more, people could keep their current doctors,...
With an advert, you have a choice whether to believe and you have an opportunity to research and listen to others BEFORE you commit.
Most have NO choice about paying for govt lies.