Internet Lawyer Explains Why Fake Facebook Privacy Policy Isn’t Legal

Uh oh, looks like someone indulged in a little armchair lawyering and launched one of the biggest Internet hoaxes of 2012. Beleaguered social media network Facebook anchors the controversy.

The hoax involves an inaccurate privacy disclaimer that went viral within a few days of Facebook going public. What is the gist of the faux notice? Well, it says that if you post a legal-sounding disclaimer (generously provided free of charge) on your timeline, then the government won’t be allowed to disseminate your content. The notice also averred the faux statement became legal the moment Facebook became a publicly-held company.

Too bad the Faux Facebook privacy policy is legal poppy-cock. Here’s why:

  1. Just because a company or entity switches its status from private to public doesn’t mean the terms you agreed to beforehand become “null and void.” (That’s why it makes sense for website operators to get a rock-solid TOS agreement or privacy policy for your website from the jump.)
  2. The fake Facebook privacy policy is based on the Uniform Commercial Code at Section 1-103 1-308 (the “UCC”).   The problem is that the UCC has nothing to do with privacy at all. In fact, the world “privacy” doesn’t appear in the statute once.
  3. Since its inception, Facebook’s policies have included language that allows them to update their policies whenever they want. While some of those rules may now change a bit, due to the public-ownership, it doesn’t retroactively affect what you already consented to. Simply put, if you agreed to the original Facebook privacy policy, you can’t take it back now. The only thing you can do is delete your account – and even then, per the official terms of use and privacy policy, Facebook is allowed to retain much of your information for an extended period of time.
  4. Legally speaking, there are no United States laws, yet, which allow Internet users to assert their own privacy rights on a platform controlled by someone else. (In fact, the word “privacy” doesn’t even appear in the U.S. Constitution.)

The Truth About Your Privacy And Facebook

United States

At the end of the day, the bottom line is that United States citizens have very little control over their online privacy. While strides are being made by many of the larger Net-based corporations in terms of Internet privacy and data security, there are no national laws that safeguard our personal penetralia. The most any state-side user can do is take advantage of the available privacy settings on websites like Facebook, Google and Twitter; because at the end of the day, if you initially clicked yes on the TOS to join, then you agreed to their rules.

Europe

European users, on the other hand, enjoy a bit more government-mandated online privacy. In fact, as of May 31, 2012, every website in the UK must get consent from users to use tracking cookies. Still, Facebook earned  their “safe harbor” privacy certificate, which means their policies comply with stricter EU privacy directives. So, unless the social media network is engaging in some shady behind-the-scenes trickery, in the eyes of the law, they’re complying with all mandatory privacy standards.

So what is the true moral of this story: if you are very concerned about your privacy, don’t set up an account on any social media sites – including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Below is a version of the fake Facebook Privacy Policy that’s been making its way across the Internet.

For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates.

PRIVACY NOTICE: 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 website or any of its associated websites, 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.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee, agent, student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

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