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Don't fall for the Facebook privacy notice hoax

A trend on Facebook suggesting users can claim copyright ownership of content by posting a disclaimer on their timeline is a hoax...still.

Have you posted the notice to your Facebook timeline to proclaim your copyright ownership of all content? Have you seen others from your social network posting such a notice? If you haven't already, don't bother. It's a hoax.

It's not even a new hoax. It's a resurgence of an old hoax that many users fell for earlier this year when Facebook became a publicly-traded company. The previous hoax implied that the change from a private company to a public one somehow changed the rules of the privacy agreement and put your posts and photos at risk unless you posted a copy and paste of a disclaimer establishing your copyright ownership.

The new one reads: "In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, paintings, writing, publications, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berne Convention)."

It goes on to claim that written consent is required for commercial use of any of the listed content, and directs other Facebook users to follow suit and post the same notice on their own timeline to protect content from copyright violations.

It's all false. Robert Scoble, a social media icon, bluntly expressed his thoughts about the hoax to his 434,000 subscribers. "If you are posting about copyright on Facebook and you haven't done your research you are an idiot."

Scoble directs people to do a little homework before jumping on the meme bandwagon, and points people to a Snopes post about the Facebook privacy hoax. Snopes is a good place to start before you repost, forward, or copy and paste anything on the Internet. Snopes.com has a pretty good breakdown of the origins and realities of the hoax.

In a nutshell, when you join Facebook and set up an account, you are required to indicate acceptance of the established Facebook terms and policies, including the privacy policy. Nobody is forcing you to have a Facebook account, and you are welcome to reject the agreement and refuse to use Facebook, but if you're using Facebook then you've already agreed to abide by the legal terms laid out by Facebook.

As Snopes explains, you are not in a position to unilaterally alter the terms of the agreement. Snopes also points out that you can not legally limit or restrict the rights of any other entity that isn't a party to the agreement between you and Facebook just by posting some text on your timeline.

Facebook privacy is a frequent source of debate and controversy, and Facebook isn't always the best steward of privacy rights. However, Facebook does provide a diverse set of privacy controls, and enables users to choose where and how most status updates, photos, and other Facebook posts are shared.

Before you complain about privacy--or the lack thereof--on the Facebook social network, make sure you at least take the time to explore the security controls available to you. And, before you copy and paste, or forward anything--ever--follow Scoble's advice and do a little homework first.

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