As social media hoaxes go, this one is fairly tame, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen it.
More importantly, this hoax might actually trick us into doing something positive: checking our privacy settings.
What’s the hoax? Essentially, it has to do with a poorly formed declaration of ownership of our Facebook posts:
"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 …"
… and so on. You get the picture.
I’m not sure how it started, but the declaration doesn’t really protect you from anything. Furthermore, Facebook isn’t interested in owning your pictures, and they have no claim over a video of your kid singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider."
Still, one of my Facebook friends recently reposted this declaration with a "better safe than sorry" qualifier. In essence, she wasn't sure if a declaration of ownership would do any good, but there was no harm in claiming rights over her online materials.
From whom are you protecting your information?
It's one thing to be worried about how Facebook might be using your personal information, and with which companies Facebook might be sharing your data (with or without your consent). It's another thing entirely to be worried about other people who may be accessing your information for more devious purposes.
Your Facebook friends and others who have access to your posts may create a more dangerous scenario than the Facebook overlords sharing your information with a chain of pizza shops.
You should be more concerned with those who use your data to control your identity.
How much do you know about your online privacy?
A recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior examined how much people think they know about the privacy of their online posts.
Ricarda Moll (University of Munster, Germany) and her colleagues asked students about the kinds of information they posted to Facebook and where the information was posted (in which categories, profiles).
They also asked students which audiences (e.g., public, friends, etc.) could see their posts and personal information.
Apparently, students knew if they had posted certain information (status updates, pictures, etc.), but they weren't clear about who could see their post. In essence, students may have been sharing personal information with the public when they intended for that information to be shared only with family and/or close friends.
How do you check Facebook privacy settings?
Be diligent about your posts and privacy settings. Yes, you own your cat pictures and cute videos. But cyber-criminals are more interested in the personal tidbits such as birth dates and email addresses that lead to identity theft.
To check your privacy settings in Facebook, click on the down arrow (top menu bar, far right). Select "settings," and then "privacy" from the left-hand menu. From there, you can choose from a variety of simple privacy settings.
You own your social media posts and personal information. Now it's time to be sure you're protecting them.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Sunday, January 18, 2015 issue of The Vindicator.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.