Posting That Legal Notice In Your Facebook Timeline Doesn’t Do Anything To Protect Your Privacy

This will not work.

With hours to go before Thanksgiving, Facebook sent out a little e-mail last week alerting users to some proposed changes to the company’s privacy policies. In response, a number of users have copy/pasted a supposed legal notice they think will protect their status updates and images from being used commercially. It won’t.

This seems to come up every time Facebook announces a major change to the privacy policy, but given the sliding-this-in-before-a-huge-holiday timing and the proposed removal of a voting mechanism used to guide changes to the Data Use Policy, some folks’ Facebook feeds are being inundated with posts like this:

“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!

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws.) By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates…”

As Facebook describes in its Statements of Rights and Responsibilities:

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. In addition:

1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: 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 (IP License). This IP 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…

4. When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).

So by joining Facebook, you have already agreed to license the content you post. Simply posting a legal notice declaring your independence from terms you’ve already agreed to (whether you read them or not) won’t change the facts.

“You can tell Facebook how it is all you like — and even demand Mark Zuckerberg give you his firstborn child if he doesn’t obey your demands,” writes GigaOm’s Jeff John Roberts. “But that doesn’t mean your claims have any legal effect.”

Regarding the popping-up of these legal notices, Jeff Bercovici writes on Forbes.com, “As any anthropologist can tell you, introducing a new threat into an information-starved society inevitably results in the adoption of new superstitions as frightened individuals grasp at anything that might offer protection.”

For what it’s worth, Facebook is still accepting comments at http://www.facebook.com/fbsitegovernance on the proposed changes through 9 a.m. PST on Nov. 28.