If you’re on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one person post a “privacy notice” declaring that no one can use their posts or pictures. Usually it cites some obscure legal code.
They mean nothing. Zip. Nada.
Let’s take a look at the current version I’m seeing a lot of lately:
For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, 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.
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.
There are several things wrong with this. First of all, Facebook going public has nothing to do with its privacy policies. That one should be a dead giveaway, but, obviously, it isn’t.
The real issue here is the fact that if you use Facebook, you had to agree to its Terms of Service (ToS). Those terms are a legal agreement, a contract between you and Facebook detailing the structure of your relationship. You’ve seen it, the pages-long part that no one ever reads, instead jumping to the end and clicking “Agree.”
As to UCC 1-308, it’s a segment of the Uniform Commercial Code often cited by conspiracy theorists. Among other things, it’s commercial law and even if it were appropriate to the situation, it still would not apply to individuals.
There is one particular negative that I would like to point out about the spread of this particular meme: It provides an illusion of data safety that does not exist.
Any time you see something like this online — a lot of the “quotations” found on the Internet, for instance — do some quick research. Snopes in particular proves to be an invaluable tool. (Here is a link to its debunking of this Facebook notice.) Follow these links for more information on Facebook’s legal terms and privacy.
George "Loki" Williams is the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content, community management and social media. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters and Kaiser Permanente. He is one of the organizers of the Rising Tide Conference in New Orleans, and his work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, and NOLA.com, among others.