The latest viral privacy meme circulating on Facebook highlights the substantial confusion over online privacy rights. Although its original author is unknown, versions of the following purported “Privacy Notice” first appeared on users’ Facebook status updates shortly after Facebook’s highly anticipated initial public offering:
"Facebook is now a publicly traded entity. Anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post on this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice to this or you may copy and paste this one. Protect yourself, this is now a publicly traded site.
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 and any worldwide 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"
The notice has since been shared and re-posted tens of thousands of times on Facebook and elsewhere on the Web. The premise for the notice has been debunked as false. Of course, Facebook users who want to better understand online privacy should look at Facebook’s Data Use Policy and Terms and Conditions.
In addition, Facebook permits users to comment on proposed changes to Facebook’s policies, and if more than 7,000 comments are submitted for any proposed change, users are permitted to vote on alternatives to the new policy. However, the results of the vote are binding only if more than 30% of all active Facebook registered users vote for one of the alternatives (or 270 million of Facebook’s more than 900 million active users) during the notice period (between three and seven days depending on the type of change). Even with the power of the Internet, rallying millions of users in such a short period of time would be difficult, especially if the users believe they can protect their rights just by posting a notice on their Facebook pages. Users concerned about their privacy rights should navigate to Facebook’s privacy controls.
The takeaway: Social media and technology companies should adopt clear privacy policies and make continued efforts to educate consumers about their online privacy expectations.