How many times have you checked your Facebook feed and found this:
“As of January 4th 2015 at 5pm Central Standard time. I do NOT give Facebook, or any entities associated with Facebook, permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement I give notice to Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile… “
or some other version of a statement wherein your Facebook friend is attempting to protect his or her copyright and privacy? Too often to count.
The privacy protection posts seem to come in waves. One of your Facebook friends saw it, copied it, and reposted it; then EVERYONE saw it and EVERYONE posted it. Before long, the post is viral and everyone is scrambling to make sure they are “protected” from Facebook.
Here is the best part though, it is a SCAM. Popular myth busting website, snopes.com as well as well known news outlets such as USA today have written articles debunking the belief that such posts are necessary.
All of the articles have the same basic message: there is no need to assert ownership of content posted on Facebook. Facebook Terms of Service state clearly “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.” Basically, the only thing that Facebook is saying is that the user decides who can see the content that he/she posts. It also warns though that “When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).” Additionally, Facebook states that if a user allows an application access to their content that is the responsibility of the user.
So what does this mean?
In the basic profile controls of Facebook, users get to define who can see what details of his/her personal information. Any content that is listed as public is just that, public. That folder of profile pictures, you know with all of the various profile pictures you’ve posted over your Facebook lifetime, that is public. The name that you identify yourself with on Facebook is public and can be associated with the profile pictures. Who your Facebook Friends are is public. Where you worked is public. What movies you like is public. Any of that information that Facebook asks you to update saying your profile is some % complete is public.
As per snopes.com, posting a simple message does absolutely nothing to alter the contract that users already agreed to when signing up for Facebook. You either sign up and agree or you don’t sign up or you attempt to negotiate your own contract with Facebook BEFORE you sign up.
So how CAN you protect your information?
You change the privacy settings on your Facebook account. Now granted, Facebook has made this seem very simple by adding a cute little lock shaped icon that opens up privacy settings, but it’s not as forthright or simple. Once you open the privacy settings there are only a few options that don’t appear to include controls for a user’s profile information. To change the privacy settings on profile information users must “Review all posts and things you’re tagged in” by using the activity log. This opens the “Activity Log” which at first glance only allows for the customization of posts, comments, and “likes”. However, by clicking “more” an entire lists comes up starting with “about” and including friends, notes, music, news, video, games, books, following, products, groups, events, questions, search and saved. When I checked my own account, most of these categories appeared automatically set to public, unless they were added by an app that asked if I wanted to share that information with Facebook friends to which I always respond “no”. To change the settings, I would need to go to each individual profile picture and update who can view each one. The same goes with the demographic information. In order to change the privacy on the books that I’ve listed as interests I had to edit my “Likes” and again each “like” had to be individually updated; with these there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to what privacy level they were set at which indicates to me that it was a user choice.
Now there were certain areas that were automatically set to a privacy level labeled “Only Me”. This happened to be the “Search” category. When I opened it, I could see the date and person’s name for any search I had made. THAT made my little Facebook stalker heart almost stop until I noticed that it was set so that only I could see it. However, should a user like, he/she could have that information posted to the wall so that the public or just their closest friends can see who they are stalking err I mean searching.
Additionally, Posts are much easier to control because there is a little icon in the bottom right corner of the window that allows the user to choose who can see it. Facebook has given the user the ability to make lists of Facebook friends to provide even better control. It’s fairly simple to set a default privacy level for new posts.
So if you are concerned about your Facebook privacy you may need to invest a little bit of quality time in curating your information but it can be done, but don’t bother with one of those annoying messages. The easiest way to protect your information though is to not post about it or share it in the first place.