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Personal Privacy Notices Go Viral On Facebook, Do They Make A Difference?

Following Facebook’s IPO, some concerned users are resorting to posting their own personal privacy statements on the social network. They reason (incorrectly) that Facebook being a publicly traded company somehow further compromises their privacy now, and that rationale seems to be fueling the statement’s popularity, with the “legalesque” text going viral via status updates.

So does the statement serve any actual legal purpose? Nope, not in the slightest, says writer and attorney Michael Phillips. The text is basically a load of hooey that doesn’t counter or void Facebook’s blanket TOS and privacy policy. (And it doesn’t help that it’s stuffed with jargon that’s legally meaningless.)

Well, at least it’s a good read:

For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly …allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee, agent, student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

The fundamental notion — that people must post such a statement now, in light of Facebook’s status as a publicly traded company, otherwise be giving tacit permission for others to use their content — is flawed. The company’s IPO changes nothing in terms of its rights and obligations to its users and their information.

And yet, says Phillips, it’s still a good idea to post it anyway. He writes:

“…in the long term, periodic privacy outbursts from the Facebook-using public — like the ill-conceived, viral Privacy Notice — may contribute to judges or lawmakers identifying a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in our lives online. Once recognized, a reasonable “expectation of privacy” would curtail the government’s ability to investigate our Facebook activities. And that expectation of privacy would likely spill over into many civil and commercial contexts as well.”

In other words, even though the previous statement is rubbish, just the fact that you’re airing your concerns can be a good thing. If it joins a chorus of voices speaking out about online privacy, lawmakers might actually pay attention to the concerns (if not the verbiage).

Have you posted your own privacy statement or seen one online? Think it’s worthwhile to put one up, or is this just an exercise in futility? Weigh in.

[via Buzzfeed]


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Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...