For avid Facebook users, it’s become second nature to “like” a brand or political position or angsty emo group like “When I say ‘I hate you’ I mean ‘I love you but you hurt me.’”And most informed users know that in the court of Facebook, your likes can be used against you–mainly, as ads displayed to your friends in some dystopian form of peer pressure: “Jessica likes Betabeat! You should too!”
But did you know that the links you share on Facebook can also be served to your friends as ads? As the New York Times reports today, that’s what happened to Nick Bergus, who jokingly shared an Amazon link to a 55-gallon barrel of lube.
According to the Times:
[Mr. Bergus] posted the link on Facebook, adding a comment: “For Valentine’s Day. And every day. For the rest of your life.”
Within days, friends of Mr. Bergus started seeing his post among the ads on Facebook pages, with his name and smiling mug shot. Facebook — or rather, one of its algorithms — had seen his post as an endorsement and transformed it into an advertisement, paid for by Amazon.
The Times notes that Facebook calls this a “sponsored story,” and tons of advertisers pay the company big bucks to parlay your stupid ironic affinity for sexual products into the one thing that really matters: $$$.
The moral of this story? Do not “like” things on Facebook unless you’re comfortable with becoming the poster child for them. Though frankly, we see this practice as less terrifying than what Socialcam has done with Open Graph. Now that’s embarrassing.