Facebook reads you your rights: it’s business as usual

Facebook’s recently told us about changes to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy.

We’re all familiar with websites periodically updating their terms and conditions, but what do these changes mean for the user and their intellectual property? The answer is, not much.

The proposed amendments clarify rather than change; spelling out in more detail what was already there. Facebook is a public place (or at least as public as your privacy settings allow it to be). When you ‘like’ something on Facebook, you are letting the world (or at least your friends) know that you ‘like’ a product, service, event, image, status, or other post.

When you post a photograph, you do so because you want to share that image with your world on Facebook. You are voluntarily posting your intellectual property onto the site, consciously sharing your views and intellectual property. In recent years, some Facebook users have taken issue with the use of their names and profile pictures as part of the ‘Sponsored Stories’ advertisements that Facebook runs.

These users claimed Facebook used their names and profile pictures on friends’ pages saying they had ‘liked’ a ‘Sponsored Stories’, without consent or payment. ‘Sponsored Stories’ is a premium advertisement service within Facebook.

Sponsored Stories‘ appear on your Facebook newsfeed with a friend’s name, profile picture and a message that your friend has ‘liked’ a product or service.

Advertisers pay more for their advertisements to be ‘Sponsored Stories’, tapping into our trust of friends’ recommendations to increase advertising-related revenue. There is little difference between updating your status, and ‘liking’ an advertisement. In both situations, you take the action because you want to share something with your friends. Why ‘like’ an advertisement if you don’t want people to know you like it?

‘Sponsored Stories’ is how your ‘like’ of an advertisement, event or promotion is shown to your friends. Yes, it is used by advertisers to make their products or services more visible to your friends. Now you understand how the system works, does this influence when you will press ‘like’ in the future? If you don’t like it, don’t ‘like’ it. Facebook’s proposed changes to their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities do not change the essential nature of how Facebook uses the intellectual property or personal information that users post.

Rather, it clarifies how your post – including pictures, content, and your name – is used in relation to advertising within Facebook. The changes include a re-write of the advertisements section and clarify how your intellectual property is used. Facebook may use ‘your name, profile picture, content, or information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content served or enhanced by [Facebook]‘. But Facebook will not use your information beyond the privacy settings you have selected.

The Statement of Rights and Responsibilities also gives Facebook ‘a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook’. There is also a whole subsection that explains how and when any content you post will be used in advertising. This means Facebook already has your permission to use the content you provide in advertisements, providing Facebook complies with the restrictions imposed by your privacy settings.

Amendments to the Data Use Policy also spell out what you have agreed to, how Facebook will use information you post, and what you need to know. It is your choice to open an advertisement, to ‘like’ a page, or to ‘share’ an article. As the user, you hold the power to use, or not, the services Facebook provides. But before doing so, make sure you understand all the terms and conditions of using Facebook.

These are easy to find – there is a link to the current version on Facebook’s home page. Remember, by creating an account, and using your Facebook page, you have agreed to those terms and conditions. If you don’t want the content of your Facebook page, including name and profile picture being used on public Facebook pages, make sure your privacy settings are restricted as much as possible. Be discerning about what you post, and do so with knowledge of how Facebook operates.

  • Damian Broadley is a partner and Gillian Nelson is an executive at AJ Park. 

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