Facebook announced that in April it will formally kill off its “sponsored stories,” those ads that use people’s Likes and identities to promote brands and pages. The company made it clear in an update to its privacy policy last fall that the sponsored stories language would be nixed from its policy.

But Facebook will still use your profile information to promote advertising. While the company may no longer be calling the ads sponsored stories, such advertisements will be considered “social context.” 

Facebook described the ads as follows:   

[M]arketers will no longer be able to purchase sponsored stories separately; instead, social context — stories about social actions your friends have taken, such as liking a page or checking in to a restaurant — is now eligible to appear next to all ads shown to friends on Facebook.

The changes—announced last fall, and now effective in April—were in large part due to a lawsuit against Facebook claiming sponsored stories violated user privacy. The crux of the $20 million lawsuit Facebook settled in August hinged on the social network using users’ likeness in advertising without asking or compensating them.

But Facebook’s new wording—social context—eliminates all phrasing alluding to advertising, potentially leading to more confusion. At least with sponsored stories, one could deduce that “sponsored” means “paid for,” thus, users would recognize their likenesses being used in ads. 

To its credit, Facebook does remind users that we control who sees our information via the Activity Log in general settings, including whether our likeness appears next to ads. 

But just because Facebook killed “sponsored stories” doesn’t mean your data will stop being used as a vehicle to push ads. It will just be called social context.

Image via findyoursearch on Flickr