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No, a legal notice won’t protect you from Facebook — so stop posting them

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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 (s fb) 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(s goog), Apple(s aapl), 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)

92 Responses to “No, a legal notice won’t protect you from Facebook — so stop posting them”

  1. People posting to Facebook or any of the other too numerous to list web sites, remember that old adage they should have taught you in school “Would you want your mother to see this on the 6 o’clock news” before you put things out of the web. Also remember once you hit “SEND” out onto the big WWW. there is no “Do-Over” and “DELETE” is a word not an action when it comes to what you have posted on the big wide web.

  2. You do not “sign a contract” you agree to a ToS (terms of service). ToS is not law or a binding contract. It is an agreement to follow and abide by the rules and a recognition of intent. ToS is not legal protection against the law. It is legal protection against the consumer. There is a marked difference and in matters of privacy it is imperative individuals understand this. Consumers in this case are not powerless because of the ToS but because of their methods.

  3. I have a novel idea… how about quitting Facebook all together. If you are not on it, then they cannot control your personal information. Besides, what ever happened to “social media” meaning that you actually saw your friends face to face in public?

  4. Robert Horne

    The best part about it, is how much the terms have changed over the course of the last 10+ years. I don’t have a say in these changes and they don’t have to notify me of the changes. It wasn’t what it was when I signed on and I haven’t read them or cared to read them since. There is no escaping big brother and quitting this service won’t save anyone or make a difference. If you complain about this then you should really think about not using the internet or personal email or using any telecommunications (Internet, Cellular or LAN Line) and work computer is a given. Everything is monitored, Don’t even talk out loud. Almost everywhere you go, you can be tracked. It is just the way it is and it is not going to get any better, so we may as well get use to it. As you go forward in life remember “Anything you say, can and will be used against you” and you are Guilty until proven innocent. Experience shows that NO ONE IS INNOCENT. So think twice before you post something, it is not the place to vent without thinking. Be happy that your thoughts are private… For now… Muah Muah Muah!!

  5. evry once in a while we notice some smart jerks fool some dumb ppl….. every time it repeats I’m just convinced it’s not the smart guys getting smarter but just the other way around for the dummies.

  6. Makeda Norris

    I admit that I was taken in by the hoax . . .even checked it out on Snopes (which exposed it as a hoax AFTER I posted . . . so much for timely fact checking from that site) . . . I immediately deleted it – What is amazing to me is the number of people who feel it their appointed duty to castigate others who inadvertently posted only to find out the truth . . . Give me a break!! Everyone who uses social media has been or will be (or both) taken in or tricked at some point in their lives on-line . . . Trust that! So, humility seems to be the order of the day for anyone with a little opinion about how the rest of us are stupid and ill-informed, along with 1) making sure that anything one puts on fb is not something that can be used to make profit for mr. z and his cronies (besides, now that fb has gone public, I’m counting the days as it’s just a matter of time before it goes under). . . and 2) keeping one’s private life private. I use fb to vent about things I don’t dare put on my professional sites like LinkedIn and others.

  7. For something to become great, there is always comes a bit of bad.. Its one of the best services for connecting the majority of the online population including mobile. Its is what it is… It’s a service that WE ALL CHOOSE to use, for free. We all know that in life nothing comes for free and the cost is not a financial one, the cost to you is your information. If you check out almost every website that has a proper privacy policy they all claim that it can be changed at any time. Be aware of what you are posting because once its online.. it can be there for ever..

  8. What is all the fuss? I have pictures of my wedding there, some of those were in a newspaper too – now everyone in my wife’s home town knows I wore a white and red suit to my wedding… this is not an infringement of some amazing guaranteed human right to privacy that I have. Its simple: if you are concerned about privacy then set your privacy settings on facebook, or don’t use it. I don’t have any information on facebook pertaining to where I live, what my phone number is or any other personal information. Simple.
    I’ve seen idiots posting on facebook that they have just stolen an item, or arrived at work drunk etc, and there have been consequences for these types of idiots. I’m quite fine with that. I think its totally idiotic to post personal information on a public website and then moan afterward – “oh my privacy is being invaded” – YOU PUT IT THERE! What – you want an internet where you can post something and no one sees it ? Well then that defeats the purpose of the internet, doesn’t it?

    We should be spending our time on things more valuable than this – don’t you think?

  9. A grown man moved back to his parents’ house. He claimed his territory by posting up a sign on his door. One day, things gone bad between the them and they wanted him out of the house. He refused. They respected his privacy not to get his stuff out of his room themselves. They called the police and they kicked him out no matter how he yelled he was their son and how they were cold hearted animals to kick him out.
    Oh well. The law is the law.

  10. Mark Hammitt

    If they only would have rested its legal merits on the original Port Huron Statement. Everyone knows the Berner Convention is hopelessly inadequate for this type of, uh, “communiqué.”

  11. Kevin Luckham

    Will someone explain to me why there is a picture of a Pagan attached to this, when obviously only members of the Religious Right would post something this ridiculous on facebook.

    • Trevor Sawyer

      I like the picture of a Pagan – It makes me think of all the false truths spread over the years and the numerous people burnt at the stake for crimes based on rumours. Very relevant I would say.

  12. Everyone keeps saying, Don’t use it if you don’t like it.” which is kind of obvious logic. I think the big picture is that people concerned with the misuse of their information are actually right. Likewise, the people saying we have to “deal with it for now” are equally correct (like the author of the article said in response to a reader in this thread). We should recognize though that it is good for Facebook to be challenged and because the protection of our information IS extremely important maybe it’s worth it to join together to say they owe it to the user (since we ARE Facebook) to assure our information is justly protected. Is it so much to ask that we communicate and interact with one another under complete confidence than under the veil of feigned privacy? We make these people a lot of money and we too are beneficiaries which makes this a symbiotic relationship. Lets keep it symbiotic. This is a message both Facebook and it’s users should affirm.

  13. Funny how people think they have a lot of legal power! Right from when you turn on your computer, you are part of 100s of contracts in the information world!! Why, even the fact that you live in an apartment or a house on a mortgage, go to work, drive a car you are paying off every month, implies you are part of contracts. You are using it, ergo you have already accepted the terms of the contract! End of story. The only way you can be exempted is if the other party violates the contract, or if the contract itself violates laws, which obviously varies from contract to contract and situation to situation.

  14. Ronald Nyein Zaw Tan

    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.

  15. 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…

  16. 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.

    • 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 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  17. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • Amanda Mendieta

      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.

      • 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.

      • 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.)

    • 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.