Why the Facebook privacy post is a hoax

Recently a reposted message like this has been (again) circulating on Facebook.

“As of January 3rd, 2015 at 11:43am Eastern standard time; I do NOT give Facebook or any entitles associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or post, both from the past, in the present, or in the future. By this statement I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute or take any other action against me based on this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308-11 308-103 and Rome statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version if you do not publish the statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE you MUST copy and paste this. I will leave a comment so it will be easier to copy and paste.”

Posts like this have been around for a few years with waves of popularity and while the content of this post has been debunked many times in the past, it seems the reasons why still aren’t clear.

This chain message is a reminder of how susceptible social media is to misinformation bias; people see their friends talking about or sharing something and think it must be true, without really looking into the validity of assumptions behind the information.

For example, the Rome Statute was established to deal with international crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression where states are unable to deal with them themselves (“Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”, 2014). It seems ridiculous to assume that the International Criminal Court would be brought in to deal with Facebook privacy breaches, so unless you are posting pictures of war crimes, I’d imagine they have much bigger fish to fry.

So then, who has actually read Facebook’s Data Use Policy?

terms and cons_Source digitaltrends.com

I’ll admit that until recently I hadn’t, but in light of the most recent flow of status reposts here are the key points.

It is pointless to share or copy this privacy post. Facebook does not “own” the information you share.

When you sign up for a Facebook account you grant Facebook a ‘non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content on your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.’

IP means intellectual property and IP content includes posts, photos and videos. This license agreement is according to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities found here.

As a Facebook user, you allow them to use the information they receive about you but you always own all of your information. You can delete posts, photos, videos and other content published by you. However information that others (i.e. your friends) share about you remains their property and while you can de-tag yourself from such information, they are ultimately responsible for its Facebook life.

What Information does Facebook receive about you?

The Data Use Policy states that Facebook receives:

  • registration information (your User ID, name, password etc)
  • information you choose to share
  • information others share about you (photos, groups, tags and the like)
  • data about you whenever you use or are running Facebook (including people whose profiles you view)
  • additional related data (or metadata) such as the time, date, and place photos or videos are taken
  • data from or about the computer, mobile phone, or other devices you use to install Facebook apps or to access Facebook,
  • data whenever you visit a game, application, or website that uses Facebook Platform or visit a site with a Facebook feature (such as a social plugin), sometimes through cookies
  • data from FB affiliates or our advertising partners, customers and other third parties that help deliver ads or understand online activity.

How does Facebook use the information they receive about you?

Facebook uses this information:

  • to help people see and find things you do (i.e. search for you)
  • to keep Facebook products, services and integrations safe
  • to protect Facebook’s or others’ rights or property
  • to provide you with location features and services, like telling you and your friends when something is going on nearby
  • to measure or understand the effectiveness of ads you and others see, including to deliver relevant ads to you
  • to make suggestions to you and other users on Facebook, such as: suggesting another user add you as a friend because the user imported the same email address as you did, or suggesting that your friend tag you in a picture they have uploaded with you in it; and
  • for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.

Remember, Facebook can and does provide data to their advertising partners or customers but states they only do this after removing personally identifying information.

If you have an account on Facebook you have already agreed to these terms and conditions. Sorry folks, you cannot retrospectively cancel the permission you granted to Facebook when you first signed up. The law doesn’t work that way.

Reposting a chain message doesn’t prevent them from ‘violating your privacy’ and those holding Facebook accounts implicitly agree to any updates to the Facebook Terms of Services.

EYE_Source digitaltrends.com

The only way to prevent the company sharing and distributing your content is to:

  • not sign up for a Facebook account in the first place (too late for most)
  • delete (not deactivate) your account including deleting all photos, posts and comments
  • negotiate a modified privacy policy with Facebook (you may need to do a law degree or consult a lawyer first)
  • ask Facebook to amend its policies on the Facebook Site Governance Page and hope for the best.

The Facebook Site Governance Page is a great source of information for changes to its privacy policy, discussions and conversations about privacy and there you can find Privacy Basics with tips and how-to-guides on controlling your online information. I found the Privacy Basics site to be a bit buggy, but persist and it gives you all the information you need for controlling information about you on the Face.

If you do decide that you wish to keep your Facebook account, remember that your User ID, name, all cover and profile pictures, networks and gender are public. Delete old profile pictures and cover pictures you don’t want people to see, don’t add yourself to networks and change your name to something more private if this bothers you.

Everything else can be made private by adjusting the privacy settings on your profile. Some types of stories, like posts on a Page’s wall or on a news article are always public so if you are writing on these you have to be prepared for the world to see. As a general rule, if you do not see a sharing icon the information will be publicly available.

I hope this helps you navigate the wild waters of Facebook and Internet privacy and think twice the next time you see the privacy hoax come up. There are more proactive and thoughtful ways to manage your online privacy than sharing a pointless ‘slacktivist’ chain message.

facebook lock Source_Mashable.com

Sources and Further Information

Facebook Data Use Policy. https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/

Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

Facebook Privacy Basics. https://www.facebook.com/about/basics

BBC News, Magazine Monitor. 2015. The Recurring Facebook Privacy Hoax. Retrieved from, http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30716493

Snopes. 2015. Facebook Privacy Notice. Retrieved from,


Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 2015. In Wikpedia. Retrieved from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_Statute_of_the_International_Criminal_Court


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s