Facebook privacy notice is a hoax, so don’t bother posting it

Many Facebook users saw their feeds flooded with the following message this week:

"In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).

For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!"

The message goes on to say that everyone is recommended to copy and paste the notice to their own wall, in order to prevent Facebook or anyone else from using or distributing any of the material and the content of the profile is "private and confidential information."

It's a nice thought, and many people believed that by posting the message to their account, their creative properties shared to Facebook would be protected.

Unfortunately, it's about as legally binding as standing in a public place and shouting that everything you say and do is now copyrighted.

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Users on Facebook can officially ignore that notice, as reposting it won't change any of your rights to the material you share on the social media site. In reality, Facebook doesn't own what you post on the site, as confirmed by a message answered by the company itself:

"We have noticed some statements that suggest otherwise and we wanted to take a moment to remind you of the facts -- when you post things like photos to Facebook, we do not own them," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in a statement, according to ABC News. "Under our terms (https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms), you grant Facebook permission to use, distribute, and share the things you post, subject to the terms and applicable privacy settings."

While Facebook doesn't own any of the material, by posting it to the website, you freely allow the social network to use the material as they see fit. As Snopes explains, you agree to these terms the moment that you sign up for the website. Posting anything stating you don't want to play by those rules any more doesn't actually change anything.

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This is the second time this year a viral post like this has shown up. Back in May, a similar message beginning with "PRIVACY NOTICE" popped up on many Facebook walls, but that wasn't legally binding, either. It was prompted by the move by Facebook to being a publicly traded company.

Aside from not signing up for Facebook in the first place, Snopes suggests these courses of action if you don't agree with Facebook's policies:

  • Negotiate a modified policy strictly between you and Facebook
  • Participate in the discussion on the Facebook Site Governance page, where you can give input on proposed changes to the site
  • Cancel your Facebook account (although you've already given up some rights which you can't reclaim by closing your account)

(Oh, and in case you noticed it in the post at the top: there's no such thing as the Berner Convention. There is, however, a Berne Convention, which is an international agreement that governs copyright around the world.)

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