Everybody’s a Lawyer on Facebook

I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, photos, script blurbs, music content, videos, et al. as a result of the Berne Convention. For commercial use of the above, my written consent is needed.

This will place my work and personal information under protection of copyright laws. By the present missive, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).”

Over the past few days, you may have seen one of your friends post this or something like it.  Does a notice like this actually matter? How much of your information does Facebook actually own, and what can they do with it? Let’s take a look.

This past weekend, many of you received an email from Facebook.  Entitled “Updates to Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” it read:

We recently announced some proposed updates to our Data Use Policy, which explains how we collect and use data when people use Facebook, and our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which explains the terms governing use of our services.
The updates provide you with more detailed information about our practices and reflect changes to our products, including:

  • New tools for managing your Facebook Messages;
  • Changes to how we refer to certain products;
  • Tips on managing your timeline; and
  • Reminders about what’s visible to other people on Facebook.

The email, instead of specifically outlining the changes, gives you a brief overview and then directs you to the “Documents” tab of their governance page.  That “Documents” tab gives another vague overview, and directs you to another “Updates” page, which contains the good stuff – “Redline” pages about their proposed changes to the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and their Data Use Policy. These “Redline” pages show exactly which statements they are changing, and how they now will read.

Here’s a few interesting, already-existing lines that you should probably be aware of:

While you are allowing us to use the information we receive about you, you always own all of your information. Your trust is important to us, which is why we don’t share information we receive about you with others unless we have:

received your permission;

given you notice, such as by telling you about it in this policy; or

removed your name or any other personally identifying information from it

This means that you do technically own anything you post, but Facebook is allowed to use it, as long as they “give you notice.” But clearly, this Privacy Policy is Facebook’s way of giving you notice, so they’re basically allowed to use it in the ways they describe therein.

The arguably most important change that Facebook is making appears under the “Affiliates” section of the Data Use Policy.  The text is as follows:

We may share information we receive with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Facebook is part of, or that become part of that group (often these companies are called affiliates). Likewise, our affiliates may share information with us as well. We and our affiliates may use shared information to help provide, understand, and improve our services and their own services.

In the short term, this means that companies like Instagram, which Facebook recently purchased, will have access to your information.  In fact, you may start seeing advertising on Instagram that is specific to your Facebook likes and posts.  This change goes one step further, however, when looked at along with the “Instant Personalization” section.

[It is] a way for Facebook to help partners (such as Bing and Rotten Tomatoes) on and off Facebook create a more personalized and social experience for logged in users than a social plugin can offer. When you visit a site or app using instant personalization, it will know some information about you and your friends the moment you arrive. This is because sites and apps using instant personalization can access your User ID, your friend list, and your public information.

Apparently, you will receive a notification the first time you visit a site that is using your information, and you will be asked if you want to turn Instant Personalization off.  However, if you don’t say no the first time, that company is not required to delete your information unless you ask them to.  Furthermore, your Instant Personalization setting is set to “On” by default – you have to turn it off in your settings if you don’t want third party websites collecting your information.

Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer confirmed the policy, stating on Forbes.com:

“Everything you do and say on Facebook can be used to serve you ads. Our policy says that we can advertise services to you off of Facebook based on data we have on Facebook.”

Lastly, Facebook and its partners can use “cookies” to collect and store information about your internet sessions.  Cookies are small files that live either on your computer, phone, or in your browser sessions. They are the tools that allow your browser to “auto-fill” a form for you, or remember your passwords to commonly visited sites.  Facebook’s policy allows them and their partners to use cookies to, among many other things:

  • Know when you’re logged into Facebook
  • Show which of your friends are online
  • Know when you saw a company’s ad on the web and later visited their page
  • Show ads around the web after you visited a company’s page

So, the bottom line is, your post declaring that Facebook can’t use your information doesn’t matter. When you sign up for Facebook, you agree to its Privacy Policy. And by staying a member, you’re complying with the current language. Facebook is giving you until November 28th to read and accept the terms of the new lines, and if you don’t comply, you can give your feedback on their page.  But on the 28th, these changes go live, and if you don’t agree with them, your only choice is to delete your account.  It’s Facebook’s world, you’re just living in it.

Here are some more interesting policies, FYI:

When you delete an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook. It typically takes about one month to delete an account, but some information may remain in backup copies and logs for up to 90 days.  However, some of the things you do on Facebook aren’t stored in your account, like posting to a group or sending someone a message (where your friend may still have a message you sent, even after you delete your account). That information remains after you delete your account.

You can download a copy of your personal data by visiting your “Account Settings”, clicking on “Download a copy of your Facebook data” and then clicking on the link for your expanded archive.

We may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so.


5 thoughts on “Everybody’s a Lawyer on Facebook

  1. Great detailed explanation! I was wondering why people were posting this up, and was pretty sure their post did absolutely nothing.

  2. This definitely got a lot of attention this week! College Humor produced a fairly comical response to all of the drama: http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6851490/facebook-law-for-idiots. I also saw that a FB friend posted this message: A) You agreed to Facebook’s terms of service. You can’t change that agreement without their consent as well. The only way to get out of it is to discontinue your use of Facebook, and even then they still have rights to at least some of the data you have sent through their servers.
    B) It is the “Berne Convention” not the “Berner Convention”.
    C) The Rome Statute established courts for the prosecutio
    n of crimes against humanity, genocide, and the like.
    D) The usual verbiage when you are looking to talk about potentiality is “punishable by law”.
    E) If you really feel this strongly about Facebook using your things, then you should probably also send a similarly-worded message to the government, your school, and your place of work. Because they also all have and keep records of the things you use your computer for and put on the interwebz.
    F) “Open capital entity” doesn’t mean anything
    G) GAHHHHH….
    He wound up with 25 likes for this! I thought it was pretty funny overall. Personally, I assume that everything I do on the Internet is being tracked and well in the end better my experience on the web so I don’t really care too much. I stay weary of what I post assuming that it at some point, can and may be used against me.

  3. the other day, when a friend posted one of those disclaimers saying that he owned his facebook content, someone commented with a link detailing how the truth as you have above. I believe everyone just wants personalization and will forgo feeling betrayed by Facebook if FB uses the information to enhance the experience on the fb site and its affiliates.

    We wanted facebook to grow, we let it grow, and now we have to live with what it wants to do with our information because we gave it to them before establishing a larger set of guidelines and rules.

  4. Wow what a detailed piece, you really brought clarity to an issue I think everyone was looking to avoid the easy way. I was so annoyed by all the statuses that meant nothing over the last week. Facebook is taking the proper steps to protect themselves and us form services I believe will be pretty interesting and useful.

  5. Great Blog Ryan. I never knew that you could download a statment of your facebook data. I think that is very interesting. This whole concept of collecting data is pretty interesting. I personally don’t use facebook that much and when I do its the chat feature that I rely on the most. I think it would be cool to see all the things that I have done on facebook. Also to go along with last weeks Facebook scare involving the privacy of the many customers was interesting. I don’t think i got an email from facebook discussing the changes to the content that I put on the site. Still I thought it was interesting to see the many people that quickly were outraged. Whats to say that if facebook doesn’t use your uploaded content a friend uses it without your permission?

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