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Disgracebook Diaries: Facebook Privacy Chain Letter Resurfaces

Hayley Tsukayama
Washington Post

Hoaxes are hard things to put down — particularly when they seem to offer something that people want. to hear. Such is the case with the latest Facebook hoax, actually a rehash of one that cropped up in June, that claims users can change their copyright rights by simply posting a status message.

The post illustrates both how little users know about their digital rights and how much they want clear control over content they post to Facebook.

The statement, which users are copying and pasting onto their profiles, reportedly confers copyright privileges to individual Facebook users that are different than the ones they agreed to when using the service.

Under the network’s terms and conditions, users grant Facebook the right to use, distribute and share posted items subject to its terms of service and user privacy settings. Copying and pasting a status update doesn’t change anything about that agreement.

It should go without saying that users have to abide by the terms and conditions they agreed to when they signed up for the site, and even posting something replete with legal jargon doesn’t let you alter that agreement. As Sophos’ Chet Wisniewskiwrote in June:

“These messages are simply another chain letter type hoax pinned upon wishful thinking.”

If you want to limit what Facebook can share about you, there are two main things that you can do: be aware of the privacy settings you put on your pictures and thoughts and limit the things that you post.

Facebook did recently propose changes to its privacy policy, known on the network as a data use policy by updating language dealing with how the network can share user information.

According to the changes, Facebook can obtain data about users from affiliates and advertising partners to ”improve the quality of ads” shown on the site. The company is also pulling back the ability for users to vote on changes to the privacy policy — a policy the company introduced in 2009 that never seemed to catch on with its users.

Facebook users have until noon Wednesday to weigh in on the changes. Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, will address suggestions about the proposal once the comment period is over.

Note: The Washington Post Co.’s chairman and chief executive, Donald E. Graham, is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.



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