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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection | post

Widely Circulating Facebook Privacy Letter Is a Fraud

by Joe Mason on

I've said in the past that if you want to get a look of incredulity and amazement from your teenagers who have a Facebook page, ask them who "owns" the pictures, text and messages they post on their pages. "They're my pictures and my messages," they will undoubtedly reply. Then you can tell them that no, effectively Facebook owns everything they post or their friends add on their pages.

Under the terms and conditions users agree to when they sign up, users grant Facebook the right to use, distribute and share posted items subject to its terms of service and user privacy settings. In other words Facebook can pretty much do what it wants with whatever you post on your page.

This brings me to the letter that is circulating about obtaining privacy on your Facebook page. Supposedly, if you post a "legal notice" on your Facebook page, no one — including Facebook — will be able to use anything on it without your specific permission.

There are a number of different versions of this letter in circulation (you are asked to pass it along to your friends). One says:

"Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates."

The suggested notice states:

"PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning — any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other "picture" art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee, agent, student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. (M)"

Sorry, posting this or some similar disclaimer will do nothing to alter the terms of service you agreed to when you signed up for Facebook. While Facebook has made some changes to its privacy policy in recent days, the bottom line on what you can do to protect your privacy on Facebook remains unchanged. Be aware of the privacy settings you put on your pictures and thoughts and above all don't post anything you don't want to share with the world.