No, Facebook isn’t going to make all your private photos public tomorrow
A well-worn hoax status post is doing the rounds on social media again – but do you know what Facebook really can do with your pictures?
Facebook logo on a phone screen Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP
A hoax Facebook status threatening that the company is about to reveal all of your private photos and messages has resurfaced again. The status message, and subsequent variations of it, date
back to at least June 2012, and periodically gain traction.
There’s absolutely no substance to them.
Nor, indeed, is there any basis in law that posting a status message – which the hoax urges – would override you agreeing to Facebook’s terms and conditions of service, which you accept when you use the platform.
The hoax cites law “UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103” and the Rome Statute as defenses against Facebook’s use of your images. The Rome Statute is actually the legal framework that set up the International Criminal Court, which deals specifically with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Copyright infringement and privacy concerns are a long way from their concerns.
By using Facebook you automatically agree that the service can use your public photos and text pretty much in any way it wishes. The content is covered by this clause in their terms, which is pretty standard for any online service where you upload content:
“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.”
While Facebook explicitly state that the usage is “subject to your privacy and application settings” which may give some reassurance, they also, naturally, reserve the right to amend the terms at any time.
The site also has a history of surprising users with changes around privacy and what you can expect other users can see of your activity. It is just over 10 years ago that the company caused uproar among users by introducing the “news feed” which sparked protests. Eventually Mark Zuckerberg had to apologize for “messing up” by releasing a service that reveals users’ online activities to other members. It’s inconceivable today to think of Facebook being a success without revealing users’ online activities.
If you’ve posted the message, it might be a good idea to quietly delete the post and reassure your friends that it isn’t true. What you might not be able to do, though, is quell their insatiable curiosity as to why you were quite so worried about the contents of your private photos and messages being made public.