/ Facebook

Facebook & Owning What You Post Online


Sometime yesterday, the 5th of January 2015, the following post began popping up all over Facebook:

Better safe than sorry right. Channel 13 news was just talking about this change in Facebook's privacy policy. Better safe than sorry.

As of January 3rd, 2015 at 11:43am Eastern standard time; I do NOT give Facebook or any entitles associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or post, both from the past, in the present, or in the future.

By this statement I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute or take any other action against me based on this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308-11 308-103 and Rome statute).

NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version if you do not publish the statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as information contained in the profile status updates.

DO NOT SHARE you MUST copy and paste this. I will leave a comment so it will be easier to copy and paste!!!

This was duly copy-pasted into a large number of Facebook statuses, and spread across Facebook as more people saw it.

The original author's intention is unclear; maybe they were trying to get users thinking about how websites can use content they generate, or trolling to see how far they can reach with their own generated content.


In any case, does such a post hold any sway on Facebook, and how do other sites deal with these issues?

A Load of ToS

Before we look into Facebook and how they can use your content, it is necessary to provide some background.

Many things we do nowadays online are bound by a Terms of Service (ToS) agreement. This agreement dictates what the website can do with you and your content, and what you can do to the site and the site's content. All users are presented with this agreement when they sign up to the website.

Terms of Service Agreement

These ToS agreements are frequently amended, and the user must reapprove the terms (unless the agreement itself say the terms may change without warning).

These agreements include things such as:

  • Copyright infringement - you may not upload copyrighted material to YouTube
  • Unauthorised access - you may not steal other user's details and log in as them
  • Impersonation - you may not impersonate another person

These are all examples of things you can't do to and with the website in question. But given most users fail to read the typically long and boring legalese of the ToS, and are caught unaware of giving away the rights to their intellectual property such as writing, photos and videos.

Intellectual Property (You Lost It)

Going back to Facebook, what does their ToS agreement say about the content you post? Well, if you have posted any photos or videos to Facebook, the ToS you agreed to means Facebook has royalty-free access to those photos and videos until you delete them:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

One site making it easier to read and interpret terms in ToS agreements is Terms of Service; Didn't Read (ToS;DR).

ToS;DR summarises key points in the ToS agreement of many popular websites and provides brief overviews of whether they could be considered good or bad in the eyes of users.

The site has the following to say about Facebook's ToS agreement on copyright:

Very broad copyright license on your content

The copyright license that you grant to Facebook goes beyond the requirements for operating the service. For instance, it includes the right for Facebook to transfer the license or to license it others on their terms (“sublicense”). Also, the copyright license does not end when you stop using the service unless your content has been deleted by everyone else.

These types of terms are by no means limited to Facebook.
Many other popular sites, including Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have similar terms in their agreements with regards to intellectual property.

A Copy-Paste Status

So Facebook is well within the rights that you permitted them when signing up to control and reuse the content you upload. But won't posting a status denying them this privilege stop it from happening in the future?

Haha no

The ToS agreement you signed when creating an account says no, as you must agree to all terms within to use the website in question. You are unable to agree to terms that you choose and continue to use the website.

The way out as determined by Facebook's ToS agreement is to delete your account and content produced by that account. But for most people posting this copy-paste status, I doubt this is an easy decision to make.