Another panicky status meme is making the Facebook rounds. And while there’s a grain of truth buried in it – as there is with many memes – it’s surrounded by some scare-mongering misinformation.
The current status meme reads something like this:
ATTENTION: This Friday, Facebook will become owner of the publishing rights of ALL your private photos. You need to make a simple change: go to ‘account’, ‘account settings’, ‘facebook adverts'(along the top), ‘ads shown by third parties’, choose ‘NO ONE’ then SAVE. Takes seconds to fix. And please share share share. (for those who haven’t done this yet..)
That right there is two completely separate issues rolled into one. Let’s take them one at a time.
First: Facebook doesn’t “own” your private photos. In fact, section 2 of their Terms (have you ever read them? you might want to) explicitly states “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook” (emphasis mine). They further state on their Facebook Ads Settings page, “Despite what you may have heard, Facebook does not give your personal information to advertisers—including your name, profile picture or any of your photos.”
According to those same terms, when you upload your photos or other intellectual property, y ou give Facebook a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post… this license ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”
Why the non-exclusive license? So that they have the right to a) have your content on their servers and b) serve it to others, in accordance with your privacy preferences.
That brings us to part 2. Yes, Facebook is now (and has been) integrating their content into third party websites, and doing something they call “social advertising” on Facebook itself. That’s when they show you, in your sidebar, that such-and-such friend of yours “Liked” a given page or product, for example. If that sort of thing wigs you out – as it does me – you can visit the Facebook Ads settings page, click on both Edit Third Party Ad Settings and Edit Social Ads settings and make sure you select “No One” for each of them.
My long-held opinion and personal preference is that the default sharing settings should always be the most private. Users should have to affirmatively opt-in to more public levels of sharing of their data and IP. However, since Facebook is provided free to users, it needs to make money in other ways, such as through advertising. They sell ads by mining our data, and our content (if we let them). So be it. We’re always free to choose not to use it, after all.
And while I’m no Facebook apologist, repeating erroneous information like “Facebook will own all your photos on Friday!” obscures the real message, which is: It’s a good idea, and your responsibility, to regularly review all of your Facebook privacy settings and make sure they’re how you want them to be.