As I am closer to forty years old than I am to twenty, I don’t really get Facebook. I mean, I have an account and my parents are friends with me on it, which makes me feel wildly popular and cool. But I am not really a big Facebook user.
But while I might not understand the purpose of Facebook, I do understand the terms and conditions that it imposes on its users; terms and conditions we have all supposedly read, considered, and accepted when we created our Facebook account all those years ago.
And, in the fallout from the whole Cambridge Analytica saga and Mark Zuckerberg having to rock up to the US Congress to explain why Facebook should be allowed to peddle and profit from the private and personal information you post to it, I thought now was as good a time as any to see what, exactly, are the terms and conditions we accept when we use Facebook.
While Facebook’s T&Cs are written in a friendly, non-legal way (as far as these things go) they still contain several paragraphs that are – how can I put this – not exactly something you should ‘like.’ That’s a Facebook thing, right?
Here are a few of the highlights, which you may want to keep in mind next time you log on to the world’s greatest social media site / US election influencer / personal information seller.
Whenever you post anything to Facebook, you are giving Facebook a licence to use that material. If you post a photo, Facebook is completely entitled to use that photo for its own purposes without acknowledging you or paying you anything for it. The only way to stop them doing this is to delete the photo off Facebook. You cannot ask them to stop using the material you post on your (or anyone else’s) profile page, or attempt to get some sort of financial reward if Facebook uses a photo you post on your page of your cat taking a dump standing up (thanks to my wife, I now know this to be an actual thing – look it up on Google if you dare). Your only options are to suck it up and let Facebook do what it wants with your posted material or delete it off Facebook entirely.
If you do decide to delete your account on Facebook, Facebook says that all of your posts, photographs, liked pages, and everything else you’ve ever done on it will be removed. That’s good. However, Facebook’s T&Cs go on to say that if anything you’ve done on Facebook has been shared by another user, or posted to their account, or has been sold to advertisers, then that material will not be deleted. Facebook’s T&Cs seem to suggest that no matter what you do your presence on Facebook will live forever, like a zombie or Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
What I find to be the most significant, and scary, of the Facebook T&Cs is that, by using Facebook we all agree that our profile information, no matter where we live, can be managed and stored in the United States. Whether you think that is a good or a bad thing probably depends on how much you trust the US to keep your personal details safe and secure. I offer no comment on this other than to point to Exhibit A: Mr Edward Snowden. Last I heard, he had some pretty strong views on how well the US manages the security of private individuals’ information, and what the US can do, and does do, with that information.