Mumbo Jumbo

Privacy on Facebook is all an illusion: Those "legal" disclaimers your friends post mean nil

Privacy on Facebook is all an illusion: Those "legal" disclaimers your friends post mean nil

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Think you can ensure privacy on Facebook with legal mumbo jumbo? Think again. Facebook

If you have spent any time on Facebook recently, you have probably seen one of your friends post the following statement:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos and similar in line with the Berne Convention.

For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times. (Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws.) By the present communiqué, 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).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.

At first glance, this language looks very official and binding, except for one little problem: It's a bunch of mumbo jumbo that would make even Perry Mason blush.

Let's break it down:

  1. To begin with, posting anything on Facebook does not supersede the user agreement you agreed to (and probably never bothered to read) when you first signed up.
  2. Citing the Berne Convention should be enough to make Facebook quiver in its tracks, except that the Berne Convention has nothing to do with the Internet. The World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty was developed in 1996 to deal with issues raised by information technology and the Internet that the Berne Convention does not cover.
  3. The word "communiqué" simply means an official announcement about a usually very important piece of news and has no legal bearing or merit.
  4. Referencing a law by its number certainly conveys importance, however the law cited in the post (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-013) concerns Commercial law — that's why it's called "Uniform Commercial Code" — and is meaningless in this context.
  5. The Rome Statue summarizes who can investigate and prosecute core international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.  Makes you wonder just what people are posting in their status update to warrant this type of protection.

Facebook has addressed all of this on its Facebook and Privacy page. (Although admittedly, it is difficult to believe a company whose stock value has lost what economists have essentially described as "a crap load of money.")

Still, one has to wonder what possesses people to copy and paste with such reckless abandonment. Maybe we have become a generation of lemmings jumping off the cliff, refusing 'til the end to believe that anything on the Internet could be untrue.