Like a swarm of hungry ants in the summer, it was nowhere, and then suddenly everywhere all at once.
You almost certainly saw this in your Facebook newsfeed this week:
“Now it’s official! It has been published in the media. Facebook has just released the entry price: $5.99 to keep the subscription of your status to be set to “private”. If you paste this message on your page, it will be offered free (paste not share) if not tomorrow, all your posts can become public. Even the messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. After all, it does not cost anything for a simple copy and paste
If you posted this status, we have some bad news for you: It’s about as legally binding as serving an eviction notice to the ants on your kitchen counter. Let’s break down why sharing this status is worthless.
- This is an old hoax
- Phrases like “It has been published in the media” and “Channel 13 News was just talking about this…" are meaningless
Whatever local news affiliate “Channel 13" is in your area, it did not publish a story about this textual talisman or any subscription fee. Saying “the media” and “Channel 13" makes this sound just credible enough -- local news wouldn’t lie, would they? But the catch is citing where they said it. And they didn’t.
- The Rome Statute doesn’t apply to you
Have you heard of the Rome Statute? No? That’s because you (probably) aren’t a war criminal. The Rome Statute applies to international criminal court proceedings, not whether Facebook is using your selfies in ads.
- A copy-and-paste status has no legal standing
If you watched “The Office,” you might remember the scene where Michael Scott attempted to declare bankruptcy by shouting “I! Declare! Bankruptcy!” That didn’t work, and neither will this. By creating your Facebook account, you agree to Facebook’s terms and conditions. Despite what the Internet comments section will tell you, your Facebook posts and comments are not an extension of your right to free speech. In other words, the content of your profile is NOT “private and confidential information.” You chose to publish it to Facebook. Any privacy terms were already negotiated and de facto agreed upon when you clicked “Sign Up.” But the good news is…
- Facebook doesn’t want your posts or a subscription fee. What it wants is your data. And it has it.
What, exactly, do you think Facebook is going to do with your status updates and photos? Unless you’re a celebrity, no one is itching to use your pics in advertisements. And though charging each Facebook user $6 a month would amount to a chunk of change in the arena of $72 billion a year, Facebook’s revenue model isn’t subscription-based.
What Facebook wants is your data. And it already has it. Facebook wants to know your age, gender, religion, marital status, hometown, level of education and general interests so that it can better target advertisements to you. You have almost certainly already given it this information. For free. Those ads are how it makes money -- not by charging you to access the site.
So what can you do if you’re concerned about your privacy? Well, for starters, don’t have a Facebook account, or cancel the one you do have. Snopes suggests attempting to negotiate new terms directly with Facebook, which you’re certainly welcome to try, though the chances of Mark Zuckerberg opening legal negotiations with a billion users individually are … slim. To say the least.
A better option is to relax. Facebook isn’t going to start charging you or turning your status updates into a modernist novel (or whatever you thought it was going to do with them). If you don’t like that Facebook uses your data to show you relevant ads, don’t tell it anything.
But most importantly: Google before you share, people. No one wants this clogging up their newsfeed.
For more news on what’s happening on the Internet, follow Jessica Roy on Twitter @jessica_roy.