Surprise, surprise: Privacy groups still mad about Facebook ads

Facebook settled a suit over its Sponsored Stories ads, but now privacy advocates say the network isn't doing enough to protect kids.

Facebook ads are an endless cause of controversy. Some of the social network's ad formats use your likes as brand endorsements that show up in other users' feeds. Last summer, Facebook had to fork over $20 million to settle a class-action suit over its Sponsored Stories ads, but privacy groups are now saying that settlement isn't good enough.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the nonprofit group Public Citizen will file a legal brief with a San Francisco appeals court on behalf of children and parents who want Facebook to stop using the likes and images of minors in their ads.

Public Citizen was against the settlement from the get-go, with staff attorney Scott Michelman criticizing the ruling for "giving short shrift to kids' online privacy rights" and letting Facebook continue "exploiting minors' images for a profit in violation of the laws of seven states." The seven states are California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Under the terms of the settlement, which is not yet in effect, Facebook said it would give parents the ability to control their child's use of likes, comments, and other activity on the network in ads. If a parent isn't on Facebook, then the kid is automatically opted out of ads until the age of 18. Facebook is also phasing out Sponsored Stories ads effective April 9.

It's unclear whether Public Citizen or its fellow challengers, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Children's Advocacy Institute, will be successful in this round of protests--a judge rejected the groups' original complaint when approving the settlement last year. The Times reported that another group, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, reversed its support of the settlement and will lose out on its part of Facebook's contributions to privacy groups and nonprofits.

So if Facebook is already putting in place measures to protect minors and has ended use of Sponsored Stories, what do the groups want? More explicit control over privacy settings. The network gives users plenty of options when it comes to control over use of information, but it's not that easy to figure out where to go and how to opt out. Pro tip: To prevent Facebook from pairing your likes and photos with ads, go into your account settings and set your "Ads and Friends" preference to "No one."

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