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Don’t believe everything you see on Facebook, even if it’s about Facebook

A fake warning about privacy settings has been circulated on Facebook recently that sheds light on what Internet users think about social media privacy and their rights online.

Privacy guideline warnings on Facebook are false
A viral post has been widely circulated on Facebook recently and warns that unless users take ownership of their personal data, the company will legally own all their content, as per new site regulations. The warning advises users to copy and paste a legal disclaimer that supposedly results in exemption from Facebook's new privacy guidelines. According to ABC News, a typical disclaimer reads:

"In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention) For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!"

CNN Money pointed out that the warning and disclaimer do not make sense as users cannot protect themselves from the site's terms of service by claiming to be exempt. Signing up for an account is the same as agreeing to terms of service. A status update with some legal language does not change a thing. 

The news source also pointed out that Facebook does not legally own user data or claim to own it. This false warning message has been around since 2012 and has received significant attention despite its misleading advice. It seems that every few months the message creeps back into people's News Feeds.

Warning messages shouldn't make stupid mistakes
ABC News also pointed out that the warning message has a glaring mistake. Many disclaimers reference the Berner Convention – which is incorrect. The Berne convention was an international agreement protecting literary and artistic works and is irrelevant to social media. The disclaimer doesn't even get that right.

In a 2012 post, Facebook commented on the warning message, reported CNN Money.

"There is a rumor circulating that Facebook is making a change related to ownership of users' information or the content they post to the site. This is false. Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms."

Facebook's actual terms of service state the following:

"You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings."

Interestingly, it can be argued that one of the reasons the message has received wide circulation for almost two years is that it preys upon people's insecurity regarding their online privacy. In today's world, privacy is increasingly seen as a privilege, not a right. As tech companies acquire more user data to fuel their targeted marketing campaigns, consumers are left feeling like they have lost control over their personal information. The warning message touches this sensitive nerve and causes Facebook users to fear that somehow Facebook will allow for personal content to be accessed through a simple Google search. Currently, privacy settings control who can see user content. It is unlikely that Facebook will start selling people's profile pictures to the National Enquirer any time soon. 

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