By Adam Dickter / CIO Today. Updated November 26, 2012.
If you posted a supposed disclaimer on your Facebook Timeline this week to enhance your privacy rights, you're not alone.
Throngs of people succumbed to worries about what Facebook might do with their pictures, statuses, comments and witticisms as the now-public company reformulates once again its privacy policies. Enough to get a reaction from Facebook officials.
"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 Web site or any of its associated Web sites," reads the disclaimer. "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."
The legalese may have added authenticity to the message as it was cut and pasted from user to user Sunday and Monday, in the apparent belief that the message prevented Facebook from using the material outside of the social network.
But according to the myth-busting Web site Snopes.com, the message is nearly identical to others that have appeared with similar warnings that trade on people's fear of "undesirable legal consequence." It noted that Facebook becoming a publicly traded company had no bearing on the privacy agreements previously in place, and the viral notice did not change the privacy agreement.
The 1-billion-user-strong company on Monday felt compelled to issue a statement to address the matter on its Newsroom page under the heading Fact Check.
"There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users' information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been."
Participation in the viral hoax evidently was fueled by the announcement of pending additional changes in Facebook's privacy policies, including a proposed change to user feedback on policies that would "end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement."
Facebook is also expected to venture into selling ads that target users elsewhere on the Web based on data collected on Facebook, which could make some even more suspicious, if not paranoid.
"As Facebook becomes a staple of everyday life for an increasing number of purposes, its users increasingly have strong feelings about every and any change or rumor of change," said Jules Polonetsky, co-director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based think tank and advocacy group supported by Facebook and other companies.