Facebook and the latest photo flap

By Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca.

If you are on Facebook, you've likely caught wind of the latest privacy concern involving the online social network: that Facebook has changed its policy to allow advertisers to use your photo without your permission to hawk their wares.

For readers inclined to believe the worst of the website, the story hardly seemed surprising. After all, wasn't this the same company Canada's Privacy Commissioner found in breach of federal privacy law? Didn't they recently change the terms of service on the site, only to back-track? Wasn't their some debacle involving advertisers and an application called Beacon?

However Facebook says this latest rumour isn't true.

"In the past couple of days, a rumor has begun spreading that claims we have changed our policies for third-party advertisers and the use of your photos," wrote Facebook manager of policy communications Barry Schnitt on Friday.

"These rumors are false, and we have made no such change in our advertising policies."

Schnitt said the advertisements that started the rumors were not from Facebook but placed within applications by third parties.

"Those ads violated our policies by misusing profile photos, and we already required the removal of those deceptive ads from third-party applications before this rumor began spreading," he wrote.

While Facebook washes its hands of the whole affair, it appears some advertisers did take advantage of the platform, which may be why the website recently closed a loophole that allowed developers to write applications based on access to photo albums set to be viewable by everyone.

The whole story brings two thoughts to my mind, both of which should be obvious to just about everyone on the web by now but for some reason aren't.

One, if you are going to sign up for something, make sure you know what you are signing up for.

And Two, just because your friend emailed, tweeted or posted something on your wall passing on a juicy story, try clicking the mouse a couple of times and see if Bill Gates really is giving away his money or Facebook is really selling your house to the highest bidder before you send it to all of your friends.

If nothing else, it will help distinguish you from the spammers who suckered all the people who didn't listen to Point One.