How long should it take Facebook to give users control over their personalities?

Reference is hereby made to the post here of Saturday last, Facebook's own healthcare.gov-like debacle.

The issue before us is, how long should it take Facebook to build a control that notifes a user that her name and/or likeness has been used to endorse a product or service, and to allow that user to kill the use of her personality rights in that ad?

8480754834_888d738c9b_zTo paraphrase the Facebook spokesperson quoted in the NYTimes article prompting Saturday's post, "these things take time."

I reached out to five coders I know and highly respect, got answers from four of them, and will attribute quotes to two of them, with permission:

Dan Carleton told me that building this feature is not as complicated as, say, fixing healthcare.gov:

"So what they are talking about is adding a system where you can be notified if you appear in one of these ads, and they’re adding a preference that you can opt out of appearing in these ads, right? So they already have a generalized system for sending different kinds of notifications to users, they already have a generalized system for tracking privacy settings and opt-in and opt-out, right? So those two major components are already there. So this is just a new type of notification they need to send people that appear in one of these ads, and a new bit they need to be able to flip per person as to whether or not they want to be in one of these ads, and then they just have to propagate the value of that bit down into the ad-serving platform. It just doesn’t seem that hard. It’s mostly a matter of priority. As a feature, in terms of surface area, in terms of how big a team you would need to accomplish it, in terms of just the integration issues you have to work through, it doesn’t seem like the team would have to be that large. Maybe four people working on it for a month and a half?"

Jason Thane told me that the problem is not really a technical one:

"A company like Facebook likely has many tiers of test and measurement for any new features that end up deployed as part of their product. So, though such a feature may be simple to build from a technical perspective, the challenge probably lies in crafting the messaging and positioning within the product such that the feature won't produce the kind of resentment several of their other privacy-related features have in recent memory. That's a taller order than any specific technical hurdle."

A third friend told me he couldn't comment, given something he is working on right now for a different company.

A fourth friend told me my knowledge of what actually happens, on the ground, on Facebook, is out of date:

"I took a look around Facebook and I can't find any examples of names or likenesses being used in onsite advertising anymore. I don't see it as an option in the advertising setup anymore either. I remember this summer when I was running . . . ads you would see social information about who was playing, liking the application but I'm not seeing it anymore."

Photo: zombieite / Flickr.


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