The Legal Power of a Facebook Status: A Farewell to Privacy

If you have not been on Facebook recently, congratulations! You deserve some sort of medal. If you have, you probably saw some of your friends post a lengthy status in which they declared that Facebook did not have the right to use any of their property for any reason.


This news may be hard for some of us to hear, but these statuses hold no legal value whatsoever. If one were to venture to Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities, he or she would find that the website—depending how well he/she can read legal writing—makes it very clear exactly what right it has to intellectual property: “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.”


Facebook fails to see why people would feel entitled to the property and photos that users are literally giving to the site, offering, “you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).” However, the website does go onto say that it loses the right to your Internet property when you delete it from your page.


The lengthy status mentions something about “new Facebook guidelines,” while the top of the site’s privacy page states that these guidelines have not been changed since June of this year.


“The status was a comfort device,” said William Oxman ‘16, who deleted his Facebook over the summer. “People saw it and thought it couldn’t hurt.” When asked, many Conn students said that they did not think much of it. Matt Bitchell ’15 said, “it had the ring of a chain email, I was surprised there was no ‘repost this or you will be killed’ clause at the end.”


Jokes aside, there is still a mystery to the madness: why is Facebook so forthcoming about their right to our property? It would seem ridiculous on Facebook’s part to utilize an individual’s page for promotional use, and even then the site has more than enough users.


The status seems to mix several issues; it comes off as a declaration that the poster does not wish to be held accountable for anything he or she posts on Facebook. However, the ‘safety status’ utilizes nothing but improper legal language, insisting that permission be asked if the website ever chooses to use personal photos.


Despite the outcry, the end result will be that whatever you post on Facebook belongs to Facebook. Everyone would love to see the company sued for something, but unfortunately Facebook has given itself the right to our information, and we allowed them this privilege the moment we signed up.


Have you ever found yourself clicking on an ad on Facebook? Neither have I, and companies are starting to realize that while having a Facebook page is great for promotion, paying the site to advertise for them is a waste. Facebook is the most information-rich website in the world. As a foreign profit enterprise, it would make a handsome profit if it began to sell the information that we “offer.”