92 Comments

Summary:

An old hoax has resurfaced that suggests Facebook users can tell the company what to do by posting a legal notice on their profile. Alas, it’s not true — your interactions with the company are governed by law and licenses, not your wishes.

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Here we go again — Facebook users want to ward off Mark Zuckerberg and his friends by posting random legal mumbo jumbo on their profile. This is ridiculous. Stop it.

In case you missed it, an old hoax has resurfaced that suggests Facebook users can tell the company what to do by publishing a rambling notice. This means that people’s Facebook feeds are once again being sprayed by items like this one:

It’s a nice idea that stems from a growing frustration at the power companies like Facebook have over our personal information. The desire for user empowerment is understandable. But it doesn’t change the fact that you sign a contract with Facebook when you sign up to use its service. It’s the same with Google, Apple, Pinterest and many other sites.

These contracts let the companies do what they want with your data subject to applicable laws. As for your copyrights, they belong to you not Facebook — but you give the company a license to use them:

You can tell Facebook how it is all you like — and even demand Mark Zuckerberg give you his firstborn child if he doesn’t obey your demands. But that doesn’t mean your claims have any legal effect.

(Image by Anneka via Shutterstock)

  1. It must be reminded…. We are not customers of Facebook…. we are their product.

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    1. You just hit the nail right on the head.

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    2. BINGO

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    3. You are not their product. You are their raw material.

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    4. I’m certainly not a product of Facebook!!

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  2. Hoax? I believe that is an inappropriate term to describe any person’s desire to stop things like Facebook. Anyone who is financially harmed by Facebook’s policies that allow information from his page to be used against him in a malicious manner can make a very good case that Facebook was in the wrong in allowing that information to be viewed by anyone else. Privacy should not be taken for granted. No person should be treated as having no rights by having accessibility granted without the person granted such accessibility to Facebook. This should be an opt-in policy, not an opt out policy.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Don. I agree that many Facebook practices with user data should take place on an opt-in basis. But, for now, we’re stuck with their terms of service and existing state and federal privacy laws.

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      1. Hi John,

        You’re not stuck with them at all. You can refuse to use Facebook.

        Stew

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      2. I certainly refused to use Facebook. It’s a stain on the social internet. I feel sullied when I use them, but feel no such sensations when using Twitter, Google+ or other such social tools.

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    2. Don, you are not in a situation that you have no rights with Facebook. You can choose to close your account and not use it. When you join their service that let you use use for free you agree to their terms. If you don’t like it you don’t have to use the service. Why would you expect that they should provide the service and have to do it on your terms? If you don’t like it, don’t join.

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      1. The point is that I don’t remember being exposed to such privacy rules in 2004-2005 when many of us joined. Why should I close my account now when I joined under a different premise a long time ago?
        They continuously change their rules, so I can also change my rules of the game with respect to them. But you cannot tell me to just “close my account” if I don’t like their service – because their current service is not the one I signed up for. Where would my time and social investment of 5-6-7 years go?

        One solution is to to bluff and provoke and manipulate and be hypocrite within FB. Let them use my “data” then … for real money generating purposes and see how well it would work.

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      2. Anastasia Chaparro Monday, November 26, 2012

        Have you ever tried to close your account? They ignore you. They let you fill out the form and then keep it open.

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    3. Amanda Mendieta Monday, November 26, 2012

      My rule of thumb is, if it is that confidential, that important, that personal, could get you in trouble with the law, your job, or education, why is it on facebook? People should enact their own standard of privacy in the first place.

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      1. thats the right approach :)

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      2. That’s my approach to it. I use the ‘postcard rule’ when using FB. You might want to think it’s private and just written to a friend or friends, but the reality is that you lose control of it once it is out there and never really know who will view it. So don’t write it on FB if it’s that private.

        You only need one of your friends to be a bit lax about their security, and then whatever of your information or messages that friend had access to, suddenly a whole load of other people can see it too. I just assume that anything on FB is public.

        Mind you, I do lie to it from time to time just to confuse it.

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      3. Amen. My rule of thumb to friends that want to talk about privacy is this: If you don’t want someone discovering some fact, DON’T TYPE IT INTO A COMPUTER. yes, I still use my FB account regularly, but I self edit – as should anyone speaking out loud.
        (Has any read the TOS & PP on GigaOm? I didn’t think so. I doubt it’s that different then FB.)

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    4. You can inactivate your account on FB. That’s an option if you are so concerned about the privacy.

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      1. But your data remains theirs to use in prepetuity. Clear your data before you deactivate–minimizes the risk (though historical data might still exist).

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    5. Now you’re just being silly. One cannot post information about oneself on Facebook and then claim Facebook caused them harm by publishing the information. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in information that was self-divulged, on the internet no less. I agree with Stew. If you don’t like it, then don’t use Facebook.

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    6. It is opt in. You accept the terms when you sign up.

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  3. The idea that you can force users to click on an arcane contract to access content is vacuous. Could a newspaper assert that purchasing a paper means that you accept a contract? No! The problem is that the courts really have been lax, acting like new media is somehow new law – it’s not.

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    1. Actually, a newspaper can assert that purchasing a paper means that you accept a contract. This is just as purchasing a ticket for public transport means that you’ve accepted a contract, or choosing to park your car in a parking garage means that you’ve accepted a contract. In all cases there are terms of which both parties agree to – eg the bus will drive you to the bus stop that you’re going to, and you will keep your entire body inside the vehicle for the entire journey.

      The basics of contract law are quite simple – offer, consideration, acceptance.

      If you don’t accept the terms of Facebook’s contract, you have a choice to not use it. If you do use it, you have therefore accepted their offer and are bound to the terms under which they offer that to you.

      Michael, by posting your comment in fact, you have in fact accepted the terms of service that gigaom.com have offered this opportunity to you under, so you’re in fact bound by yet another contract on the web… so I guess you see how easy it is to form contract based on actions – be it purchasing a newspaper, or posting on a website.

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      1. Amanda Mendieta Monday, November 26, 2012

        Completely agree.

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      2. Yes there is offer and acceptance. What constitutes consideration? There is no sum of money changing hands so it is arguable that a simple contract has not come about. Judicial precedent will ultimately be the source of law, which will resolve these questions. Not necessarily legislation.

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      3. Acceptance of a contract does not require monitery exchange.

        The terms of use also include the condition that they get to change the TOU. Funny that way.

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      4. Dan, Consideration does not necessarily need to be financial. Consideration is effectively a promise to do something that you’re not obligated to do (eg pay money – or provide data) or a promise to not do something that you are legal entitled to do.

        The thing that does need to be considered from a contractual perspective is if the Terms of Use / Contract is balanced and equitable between both parties. Contracts that are biased in the most part to one party of the contract are typically not enforceable… I’d imagine it would be the unbalanced nature of the contract that would deem it unenforceable – ie Facebook derives significantly more value from the data provided by a user than the user derives from the use of Facebook.

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      5. The basics (in the UK at least) also include that a contract must be reasonable, and if one party does not have any ability to alter the content of that contract, then it is relatively easy to argue that it is not reasonable – a number of “shrink wrap” contracts have been annulled in the courts for this very reason.

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    2. The difference, Michael, is that you read a paper, whereas you use FB. Any site that you interact with has some terms of use agreement.

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      1. Amanda Mendieta Monday, November 26, 2012

        They do have a terms of use agreement and we sign it usually without reading the fine print.

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    3. Disingenuous argument. You don’t “purchase” Facebook before seeing the terms. You see the terms, you accept them, then you are allowed access to Facebook.

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  4. What baloney. Facebook’s “licence” is worth exactly what all software and web site licenses are worth… exactly SQUAT until a judge says otherwise.

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    1. Very true. Except we know what the judge is going to say.

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      1. It seems that all assume that US law (only) will apply to Facebook? That is not necessarily the case

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  5. I don’t see why this is such an issue. Everyone knows that Facebook controls all your personal information etc. If you don’t like it, don’t use it.

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  6. Reblogged this on Back of a Coaster and commented:
    A great summary of the current ‘disclaimer’ hoax doing the rounds. My thoughts are that by posting somethig like this you are essentially invalidating the original terms of use for the site.

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  7. Knew straight away it wasn’t binding.

    by going onto facebook we are agreeing to THEIR terms and conditions, we cannot just make our own

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  8. If these guys can’t stand Facebook’s policies, they better leave. No use.

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  9. Everyone declaring that their Facebook content is protected by posteing some copyright status update on their wall reminds me of the episode of The Office where Michael declares bankruptcy by shouting it loud…

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    1. I chuckled out loud when I read this comment. Amazing office reference and great comparison!

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  10. Ronald Nyein Zaw Tan Monday, November 26, 2012

    I stopped and expunged my profile and my images on Facebook and will use LinkedIn for the serious professional networking. I am finding that with Facebook gone from my life, I am more productive and enjoy interacting with friends the *human* way. You know . . . calling them and meeting them in person.

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    1. Erm, have you read LinkedIn’s T&C’s?

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    2. Ronald- Yikes! I suggest you lookup what the CEO’s philosophy about privacy is. He was quoted a year or so ago year as saying some pretty scary stuff about it! I believe it was a television interview- but I don’t remember the exact comment. I stopped using LinkedIn for that reason.

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