Facebook Site Governance Vote

There are only a few more hours left to get your vote in for Facebook’s site governance vote on the company’s proposed Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy.  I’ve reviewed the changes and they make a lot of sense.  I voted to approve the changes and I think you should, too.  Let’s be clear, voting no will not magically make Facebook stop sharing your information.  Nothing will.  Sharing is the whole point of Facebook.  You can still limit what gets shared with whom, but you can’t stop it altogether unless you delete your account permanently.  The changes to the site’s governance do very little of substance, but it’s a good time to refresh yourself with them anyway.

I’m rather frustrated that more and more people seem to keep buying into a hoax (or rather a series of related hoaxes) that has continued to circulate around the internet.  If you have been under a rock in an internet dead zone, you may have seen this language posted by someone in your friend list.  You may have even posted it yourself (although I doubt it, since people who make their way here are probably more savvy than that):

 I DO NOT AUTHORIZE the use of my personal data (text, photos, images, comments or any content contained on my page now or in the past), under any pretext, for commercial or non-commercial purposes without my written and signed approval. Also, I REJECT AND DO NOT CONCEDE that Facebook stores messages, comments, images, or any other data I choose or chose to delete. In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to my personal details, status, updates, messages, photos, videos and all other personal content that I post or have posted online , on my personal page or anyone else’s page. For commercial use of the above, MY HANDWRITTEN CONSENT IS NEEDED AT ALL TIMES WITH NO EXCEPTION.

Here’s the thing, it’s total garbage.  Even if the language made any sense whatsoever (which it does not) it has no legal effect.  You already signed up for Facebook.  You already agreed to the terms and conditions and continue to agree every time they change it and you keep your account.  Posting this has the same effect as telling a police officer that you don’t accept the speeding ticket he wrote you because you wrote your own constitution and speed limits don’t apply to you.  As anyone who has survived the first week of a contracts class could tell you, you’re trying to change a binding contract without contributing any  additional consideration (in this case money or anything else of real value).  So even if the language wasn’t gibberish, it’s simply an offer to enter into a new contract with Facebook that Facebook has every right to reject.  Good luck with that.

Right now, the internet is swarming with misinformation about privacy rights and these phony agreements.  It’s frustrating because people just copy and paste without even thinking about what they’re doing.  The problem is that the hoax isn’t totally harmless.  It will probably do more harm because some people will probably believe that Mark Zuckerberg himself will come to their door with a clipboard and a stack of documents and ask them personally if they agree to let other people see the picture they took of their friends doing shots in their parents’ basement.  He won’t, but that picture could haunt them for years to come because the internet never forgets.

If you don’t like what Facebook is doing with your information, don’t post anything else and delete your account.  Other than that, read the statement of rights and responsibilities and learn what it means or go ask a lawyer.  Seriously.  Don’t just rely on the internet.  Come to think of it, don’t even trust me.  If you’re really worried about how your information is getting shared, go talk to a real attorney, in person.  They’ll tell you everything I just did, but you’ll at least have the satisfaction of talking to a real human.

About Justin Kwong

An attorney in the Twin Cities and adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law where I teach a seminar on the law of virtual worlds.
This entry was posted in Privacy, Social Networks, Terms of Service Tracker. Bookmark the permalink.

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