Facebook Privacy Panic: It's Just A Viral Hoax

Fact check: Contrary to the viral cure-all circulating across Facebook and the Internet at large, there is no simple fail-safe text to post that will deter Facebook from controlling your personal data. There is no magic bullet to keep your social privacy private. And in fact, you may not really need one. 

First, just having a profile basically puts your fate in Facebook's hands.

Second, Facebook's policy is that users already own their own content. Unless of course, you don't.

What? Double-speak aside, as long as you own the intellectual property of the material you're posting, the site doesn't. But, if you don't, they do. It's all in the fine print that no one, save Ivy League lawyers, can understand. 

So just what the hell is going on to have prompted this new facepanic?

Status Updates

Last week the Menlo Park company updated its privacy policy to basically strip the public from being able to vote on changes to Facebook's future social policies. Instantly, fear circulated the Web that the change would mean Facebook  would also adjust its control of people's information.  

Here's the text that people are being advised to post to their timelines. If you've been on Facebook in the last couple days, you've probably already seen the copy floating around your friends' timelines:

"In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details contained in my personal and business profiles, including, but not limited to: all postings, status updates, comments, illustrations, paintings, drawings, art, photographs, music, videos, etc. as per the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, (a/k/a the Berne Convention). For commercial use of any of the above, my written consent is required in each instance and at all times.

By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook's direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws.

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates." 

It seems silly that posting this would give us ownership of material we already own, but the above post caught on like wildfire over the Thanksgiving weekend. Not surprisinly, many people were moved to ask, "Huh? Is this real?" The answer: No. 

Facebook Posts

The copyright meme got big enough that Facebook itself weighed in and responded on the site:

"There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users' information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been."

Facebook has not yet responded to ReadWrite's request for comment.