A new wave of Facebook users is posting a new privacy notice to their Facebook walls, hoping to protect their posts and photos from being used without their permission. Chalk up another hoax notice that doesn't actually do anything.
"I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data, drawings, paintings, photos, texts etc... published on my profile. For commercial use of the foregoing my written consent is required at all times," the posts read in part.
The notices may have been triggered by a series of emails and notifications Facebook has been sending to users about its updated data policy and terms of service. A revised version will go into effect on January 1.
"Better safe than sorry," said Joe Bush, a public affairs representative and captain in the US Army, who said he posted the legal-sounding warning "on the off chance" it could scare would-be hackers from leaking his posts and photos.
The problem? People can't just change the privacy terms they signed when they joined Facebook, or pick and choose what new terms they'll abide by. Still, the waves of posts speak to something fundamental about the Web and how we use it. Between various privacy breaches, government programs and advertising efforts, people are becoming more anxious about using services like Facebook even though they post to them practically every day, according to a Pew Internet study from September 2013.
"People probably feel relatively helpless against Facebook, so try and define who owns the content they are posting," said Theodore Claypoole, a privacy attorney in Charlotte, N.C., and co-author of "Privacy in the Age of Big Data."
For its part, Facebook said it just owns your activity on the service. "You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your settings," the company wrote on its terms of service page, which a Facebook spokesman reiterated in a statement.
Privacy policies across the technology industry have been a jumble of legal jargon for decades, and users have gotten used to just clicking the button to agree and move on. In June, HBO comedian John Oliver joked Apple could put the entire text of Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf" inside the iTunes user agreement and people would probably still click "Agree."
Users are now regularly seeing notifications alerting them to changes in Facebook's privacy policies and terms of service. "You wouldn't have seen that a few years ago from Facebook," said Jon Neiditz, an Atlanta-based privacy and technology attorney. Other companies have followed suit.
Facebook's efforts still haven't stopped users from fearing the worst. Users have been posting the hoax privacy post, in one form or another, since 2012 according to the Snopes.com website, which debunks urban myths.