By Heather Brown


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Monday, many Facebook users may have updated their statuses with messages about what information can and can’t be shared.

One of the messages claimed to allow people to forbid Facebook from using their photos and information. The other claimed to charge Facebook users for keeping their updates private.

Both were revealed as hoaxes, but it still raises a Good Question. Why are our privacy rights when it comes to social media?

“The general rule of thumb is if you’re putting it on Facebook, you’re sharing it with the world,” said Sharon Sandeen, a professor of intellectual property law and the Hamline University School of Law.

She says once people share something with friends, it’s considered giving up privacy from a legal point of view.

The Facebook terms of service says users own their content and decide how it’s shared through privacy and application settings.  But it goes on to say that users grant a license to Facebook to use any information that is posted.

“A lot of what’s going on in terms of use is about them avoiding liability for copyright infringement and privacy violations, so they tend to be very pro-company, rather than pro-consumer,” Sandeen said. “On the other hand, many of these companies know, Facebook being one of them, know that it they don’t protect those to some degree, people won’t sign up.”

As for whether Facebook can sell a person’s specific information or photos, Sandeen says the company says they don’t for individual users, but will aggregate data about a group of people and sell it to advertisers.  She says many larger social media sites, including Instagram (owned by Facebook), have similar policies.

Heather Brown

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