Social media: Be careful what you ‘like’

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q: Is there any drawback from “liking” things on Facebook (i.e., clicking the Like button)?

A: In the past, “liking” a company or group Facebook page (such as the up-and-coming band Lake Street Dive’s Facebook page) simply meant that some of the stories from that “liked” page would show up on your Facebook home page. But times have changed. Today, in a growing number of cases, clicking the Like button may result in your unknowingly surrendering your legal rights. For example, in April 2014, General Mills updated its privacy policy to say that by using its websites (including its Facebook page), you agree to be bound by the terms of General Mills’ privacy policy, as highlighted in the excerpt pictured below.


As a result, “liking” the General Mills Facebook page (or subscribing to its newsletter, downloading its coupons, or entering its sweepstakes), not only means that you grant the company permission to harvest your data, but it could also mean that you automatically agree to arbitration should you ever wish to file a lawsuit against the company.

Some companies have more intrusive policies when it comes to “liking” their Facebook pages. For example, earlier this year a Facebook friend of mine named Mary “liked” a company’s ad for a software product, and as a result, her name was then used (without her knowledge) for months in company ads appearing on my Facebook wall. It appeared to me that her name was used as if she were endorsing and promoting that company’s product. (I don’t want to disclose Mary’s full name or mention the company in question in this forum; however, the results were as if Woolworth’s had published ads with the words “J. Carlton Collins, CPA, likes Woolworth’s” atop some of its published ads without my knowledge or permission.) When I brought this matter to Mary’s attention, she was appalled. She immediately “unliked” the company’s Facebook page and requested in writing that the company cease and desist from using her name. To her dismay, company ads implying her endorsement continued to appear on my Facebook wall for several more months, until I sent an inquiry to the company’s legal counsel, at which time the company removed her name from further ads. The lesson learned is that perhaps you should be careful as to which Facebook pages you officially “like.”

About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@ is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor. Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2013, 2010, and 2007 versions, unless otherwise specified.

Submit a question

Do you have technology questions for this column? Or, after reading an answer, do you have a better solution? Send them to We regret being unable to individually answer all submitted questions.


Year-end tax planning and what’s new for 2016

Practitioners need to consider several tax planning opportunities to review with their clients before the end of the year. This report offers strategies for individuals and businesses, as well as recent federal tax law changes affecting this year’s tax returns.


News quiz: Retirement planning, tax practice, and fraud risk

Recent reports focused on a survey that gauges the worries about retirement among CPA financial planners’ clients, a suit that affects tax practitioners, and a guide that offers advice on fraud risk. See how much you know with this short quiz.


Bolster your data defenses

As you weather the dog days of summer, it’s a good time to make sure your cybersecurity structure can stand up to the heat of external and internal threats. Here are six steps to help shore up your systems.