The latest battle on the teens-and-Facebook front concerns advertising: parents are mad that just "liking" something essentially turns their kids into advertisements for it. They're asking if this is even legal. Turns out, nobody knows.
According to AdAge, a Brooklyn dad is suing Facebook on behalf of his son, alleging that "Facebook, Inc. has regularly and repeatedly used the names and/or likenesses of plaintiff ... for the commercial purpose of marketing, advertising, selling and soliciting the purchase of goods and services." At issue are Facebook's social ads, wherein users' names and images are used to advertise things they've "liked" or RSVPed to. You've probably seen Facebook pages or websites displaying lists of your friends who have liked their content, and if you're an adult user, you probably now know your name will pop up on a page if you like it. But kids — especially young kids — may not have the same awareness.
Of course, kids under 13 aren't technically allowed to sign up for Facebook. And since only a paltry 7.5 million of them do anyway, is there really a problem? Some parents — including those of older teens who are allowed under Facebook's rules — say yes. Dad Bill Streeter tells AdAge, "They're basically taking users and using them for endorsements of products, and even if their terms of service says something, I don't see how a minor child can consent to something like that. Of course it's a violation of the law." But the legal issues aren't nearly that clear-cut. Says advertising lawyer Linda Goldstein,
Nobody knows if it's legal. Does disclosure in the terms of service and use of the service constitute sufficient consent? The law requires that you have consent to use a person's name or likeness in advertising, in fact, it requires written consent. In this case, it's not clear at all.
Social advertising has been widely hailed as the next big thing, the idea being that your friends' recommendations are way more persuasive than those of strangers. And in some ways, clicking "like" indicates a certain tacit acceptance that you're endorsing a product. But some users — especially kids — may not be able to tell the difference between showing their friends they're into something and becoming a public spokesperson for it. And in this case, the law may need to step in to make sure Facebook lets them know what they're doing.
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