Wednesday 3 December 2014

User Generated Nonsense

As a begrudging user of Facebook (and quite new to it to boot) I recently, like all other users, received a very irritating post from FB itself (at the end of November) telling me all was changing when it came to privacy, cookies, advertising and using my data - and not to worry - and to be fair, that was followed up by a far more detailed email that told me:

Hi Ben,

We wanted to let you know we're updating our terms and policies on January 1, 2015 and introducing Privacy Basics. You can check out the details below or on Facebook.

Over the past year, we’ve introduced new features and controls to help you get more out of Facebook, and listened to people who have asked us to better explain how we get and use information.

Now, with Privacy Basics, you'll get tips and a how-to guide for taking charge of your experience on Facebook. We're also updating our terms, data policy and cookies policy to reflect new features we've been working on and to make them easy to understand. And we're continuing to improve ads based on the apps and sites you use off Facebook and expanding your control over the ads you see.

We hope these updates improve your experience. Protecting people's information and providing meaningful privacy controls are at the core of everything we do, and we believe today's announcement is an important step.

Erin Egan

Global Chief Privacy Officer

Oh joy of joys. Improved ads - just what I wished for Christmas. But there again, if you sup with the Devil .........

The announcement prompted a flurry of online anger - and to be frank most of what FB says is a glossy load of mumbo jumbo - US corporate doublespeak designed to make FB look like the user's friend. Let's be honest - they are NOT anyone's friend - they are a business and their main business is data mining to sell advertising. They are not 'nice' (and for that matter neither are Google). If you use FB - get used to their business models. But in particular, the announcement prompted a flurry of postings so called 'copyright notices' from users trying to protect their own photographs, images, data and other material they had posted  - and these notices were widely copied over the next few days and subsequently posted on user's 'wall's'.  Indeed I myself took one and turned it into something I thought was quite amusing with some ludicrously overblown legal nonsense in it (but yes, lawyers jokes, only funny to other lawyers) using my very best 'Dr Evil' voice when it came to a liquidated damages provision - only to find that itself circulating and being featured on the walls of 'friends'. But here's an example 

Today, November 30, 2014 in response to the Facebook guidelines and under articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data, drawings, paintings, photos, texts etc... published on my profile. For commercial use of the foregoing my written consent is required at all times. Those reading this text can copy it and paste it on their Facebook wall. . This will allow them to place themselves under the protection of copyright. By this release, I tell Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, broadcast, or to take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The actions mentioned above apply equally to employees, students, agents and/or other staff under the direction of Facebook. The contents of my profile includes private information. The violation of my privacy is punished by the law (UCC 1 1-308 - 308 1 - 103 and the Rome Statute). Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are invited to post a notice of this kind, or if you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you have not published this statement at least once, you will tacitly allow the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile.


PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning - any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any government including but not limited to the United States Federal Government or U.S. state legislatures who may desire to use or or be in any way involved in monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, please note that you do NOT have my permission to utilise 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 or any other information whether private or otherwise.

Effective? Well I have to say I think not! apart from legal nonsense one notice referred to 'laws' contained in the Berners Convention, by clicking 'yes' when you sign up to Facebook’s terms and conditions, and becoming a Facebook user, you do agree to let Facebook have access to data and content ......... and posting up belated notices just does't do anything much does it? As one commentator noted "Facebook users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they signed up for their accounts, nor can they unilaterally alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms instituted by Facebook, simply by posting a contrary legal notice on their Facebook walls". ABC News reported a response from Facebook "We have noticed some statements that suggest otherwise and we wanted to take a moment to remind you of the facts — when you post things like photos to Facebook, we do not own them,"  with spokesman Andrew Noyes adding "Under our terms you grant Facebook permission to use, distribute, and share the things you post, subject to the terms and applicable privacy settings." 

That said, users really SHOULD read what they sign up to. Will they? I doubt it. As CNET noted, in June in an item on net neutrality, comedian John Oliver joked Apple could put the entire text of Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf" inside the iTunes user agreement and people would probably still click on "I Agree."

The obvious answer is that if you have problems with a commercial corporation being able to use a vast swathe of your personal information and images, don't sign up to FB - or if you have - delete your account (although that is (a) very tricky and (b not entirely effective. Without mass user action, FB wont' be changing their terms anytime soon. As TechTalk noted: The fact is that Facebook members own the intellectual property (IP) that is uploaded to the social network, but depending on their privacy and applications settings, users grant the social network "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)." Facebook adds: "[t]his 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." 

You have been warned! And remember, he who sups with the Devil  ..... should have a long spoon

More on CNET here and on the Huffington Post here

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