Growing Concern over Facebook Privacy in Light of Public Trading Status

If you are an avid Facebook user you may have noticed that your news feed has become increasingly cluttered with curious posts written in a manner, which seems to be, almost apologetic. These posts attempt to combat a perceived threat precipitated by Facebook’s novel trading status.

On May 18th, Facebook officially put their shares on the market, thus redefining Facebook as a publicly traded company. Facebook users everywhere are up in arms over Facebook’s changing status, for these users have incorrectly assumed that this change in status somehow affects Facebook’s preexisting privacy policy. Now, countless people are under the impression that Facebook’s preexisting privacy policy has been nullified by this new change, resulting in the aforementioned posts, which attempt to protect the poster’s privacy.

You may have seen Facebook privacy messages like the one exhibited below, but you’ve probably also encountered variations to the following model:

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

Admittedly, when I first read this post, I immediately highlighted the text and right-clicked to copy, planning to eventually paste this same message as my status. Perhaps I can credit my reliable intuition, seeing as I’m not an authoritative figure on the legalities of Facebook, but I failed to paste the trite message after reading the individual commentary users utilized to preface the generic pasted text. One user wrote something along the lines of: “I know this seems paranoid, but just to be safe…”(the user then inserted some version of the aforementioned “in defense of privacy” statement). And this exact self-preserving mentality appears to be the driving force behind this viral trend to copy and paste a legally ineffective statement in an attempt to ward off violations of privacy.

This “just to be safe” mentality struck me as odd, and I wondered if these posts were indeed necessary. After reading further, I realized just how arbitrary these posts were. And once I detached myself from my initial (and unconsciously emotional) response to a potential invasion of privacy, I was able to research and resist the concern that so many Facebook users have fallen prey to.

Snopes.com discusses what is arguably one of the newer Facebook scandals (Facebook privacy scandal), and calmly reasons through the various reasons why Facebook’s public trading status does not in any way affect the privacy policy. Snopes.com also asserts that even if our rights were being infringed upon, simply resisting the infringement by formulating and subsequently posting a jargon-heavy statement on your Facebook page isn’t an effective legal tactic. Facebook users appear to underestimate the complexity of our legal system by assuming that their jargon-heavy statements have any legal sway comparable to contracts, agreements and formal policies. Moreover, Facebook’s status as a public trading entity has nothing to do with their preexisting privacy policy. As snopes.com points out, all Facebook users alike, when initially creating their Facebook accounts, had to accept and agree to Facebook’s privacy policy, a policy that is in no way influenced by Facebook’s novel trading status. Even if the privacy policy were affected by Facebook’s recent status change, the privacy policy that you accepted when you created a Facebook account would remain in effect, therefore providing you with immunity to future changes.

– Cara from HSM

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