David Swain, a spokesperson for Facebook, said that the new terms are meant to create more accountability and faster enforcement when things run afoul.
The terms are in addition to the already existing, so-called "Facebook Policies," to which the ad and offer networks are already held.
In today's release of "Platform Terms for Advertising Providers", we see a common theme - accountability and protection for the user. Within the seven new term items, companies are required to keep open lines of communication with Facebook, provide "a clear and conspicuous method for a user to make a complaint" and "provide to Facebook the names, email addresses, and business addresses of all operators and employees of the ad provider."
Overall, the terms appear to make a number of connections and communication channels and hold ad providers responsible, which is something we certainly won't complain about. They prevent back-dealing and information swapping, especially for companies that run both ad networks and Facebook applications, and require companies to operate transparently. The terms also look to prevent companies from duping Facebook by using IP filtering to show different content to Facebook employees than other users might see.
Keeping Relationships Above Board
It also looks like Facebook is trying to avoid a repeat of past issues with advertisers, especially an instance in December, when a health insurance lobbying group reportedly paid Facebook users in virtual, "in-game" currency to send a letter opposing health-care reform legislation to their Congressional representative.
The fourth term reads as follows:
If the ad provider owns or operates an application on Facebook Platform, the ad provider may not make customer support contingent upon using such an application or require a user to share information with the application, and will not use any data it receives through operation of the application to tailor content (such as serving advertisements through an ad network).
This term seems to address that sort of situation directly, something we strongly agree with. Using the more addictive qualities of Farmville and the like should not create influence over political outcomes. What we're saying is, an addict's desire for virtual corn should not be for sale, especially in ways that force people to act and potentially cause real change in the world.
It is illegal to buy votes and it should be for companies to trade virtual corn for letters to congressman. We hope these terms help ensure that simple idea.
While Zynga was not implicated in the December debacle, we asked how it saw this term affecting its business practices, if at all. Zynga is, after all, the exact type of company described in the clause. We did not receive a response by press time.
On a less sinister note, this also seems to prohibit ads using friends pictures and other data collected from applications. While Swain reminded us that Facebook had already "prohibited user data [from] showing up in third-party ads," we hope that these new terms keep that a reality.
In the end, the number of ways that Facebook tries to hold companies accountable is substantial and we hope that we never seeing an ad for a date with our mother ever again.