Law professor argues that Facebook's Social Ads may be illegal

"Trusted referral"-based advertising program, according to blog post by a University of Minnesota law professor, may violate an obscure New York privacy law.

Facebook executives have recently been quoted as saying they want to take over the world, but something might already be getting in their way: the law.

The New York Times' Saul Hansell has linked to a blog post from William McGeveran, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, in which McGeveran asserts that an obscure, 100-year-old New York privacy law may put a damper on Facebook's new "Social Ads" program, which inserts "endorsements" from your friends on the social-networking site.

Plenty of pundits have already argued that this program could be really annoying, but if McGeveran is right, it also could violate a law that was instituted to protect people from having their names and likenesses used for advertisements without permission. Specific written consent, he underscored, is necessary. True, it's a state law, but the fact that Social Ads are online, and hence displayed on computers in New York, could get in the way.

"I don't see how broad general consent to share one's information translates into the specific written consent necessary for advertisers to use one's name (and often picture) under this law," McGeveran wrote.

According to Hansell's article in the Times, Facebook's chief privacy officer has already said he thinks McGeveran's interpretation of the law is too broad to apply to Facebook's Social Ads.

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