A while ago, as I reported on this blog here, I published an article on ESET’s blog about Trust, Truth and Hoaxes in Social Media. The main point of the article was to address common misconceptions about Facebook’s right to control content that its subscribers post, with reference to a widely distributed but legally unhelpful disclaimer that people are posting to their wall in the hope of retaining control.
Security blogging veteran Graham Cluley has made similar points today here: as his audience seems to be much bigger than mine, hopefully he’ll reach more Facebook users with his article. 🙂 It’s not that this particular hoax is necessarily harmful, as such, and Facebook does deserve some of the criticism it has attracted for its ambivalent attitude towards the privacy of its users. But this disclaimer is based on at best a partial understanding of Facebook’s view towards its users’ content.
In FB’s own words:
Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with. When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they’ve asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn’t help people share that information.
People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other.
People spreading the hoax (and claims that the story is supported by reputable TV channels are clearly intended to mislead, so hoax isn’t too strong a word) are not only misunderstanding how Facebook works, but expect the disclaimer to afford them a degree of protection that it can’t possibly provide.