Fact Check

Does Facebook's Policy Allow Them to Use Your Photos in Ads?

Rumors have circulated for many years saying that all your photos are up for grabs.

Published July 24, 2009

 (1000 Words / Shutterstock.com)
Image courtesy of 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com
A new Facebook policy allows advertisers to use members' pictures without permission.


Facebook has been the subject of several outlandish rumors we've debunked over the years. Facebook is not implementing user fees, they are not about to make all posts public, nor is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg closing Facebook. Yet another rumor regarding third-party advertisers employing Facebook users' photographs without permission has been around for more than a decade:


Facebook has just agreed to let a third party advertisers use all your posted pictures without your permission.

Click on SETTINGS up at the top where you see the log out link. Select PRIVACY. Then select NEWS FEEDS AND WALL. Next select the tab that reads FACE BOOK ADS. There is a drop down box, select NO ONE. Then SAVE your changes.

The alert appeared to have been based on a bit of confusion over Facebook's "social ads," a system that was launched around 2007 and displayed members' profile pictures to their friends in conjunction with advertisements when those members had taken some action that associated them with the advertised product or service:

We've run advertisements from our own advertising system for more than a year that let your friends know if you have a direct connection with a product or service, in the same way that your friends learn through your News Feed if you're connected with another friend or an organization's Facebook Page. For example, if one of your friends becomes a fan of a Page, you may see an ad with your friend's profile photo that indicates the action that friend has taken.

Facebook has not recently agreed to any change in policy allowing third-party advertisers to make unrestricted use of all photographs posted by members, as suggested by the example quoted above. As Facebook stated in their corporate blog, that rumor stemmed from policy-violating outside advertising which has since been discontinued:

The advertisements that started these rumors were not from Facebook but [were] placed within applications by third parties. Those ads violated our policies by misusing profile photos, and we already required the removal of those deceptive ads from third-party applications before this rumor began spreading.

In the several years following that 2009 Facebook blog post, we have seen evidence that Facebook is using profile photos in advertisements. The names of Facebook users' friends can still show up in various places, such as group suggestions or advertising (for example, if a friend likes a specific brand, an ad may encourage a user to also like the brand), but only as text and not accompanied by photographs.

Facebook users on desktop computers can control several aspects of how they see ads on the platform by visiting the "Your Ad Preferences" page, scrolling to "Your Ad Preferences", and toggling the "Ads that include your social actions" switch.

Users on the Facebook mobile app can tap the three lines in the top right portion of the screen, scroll down to "Settings & Privacy", choose "Settings", scroll down, and select "Ad Preferences" followed by "Ad Settings," and then toggle the "Ads that include your social actions" switch.


Weingarten, Gene.   "Pearls Before Breakfast."     The Washington Post.   8 April 2007   (p. W10).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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