Facebook Privacy Hoax

Facebook users may have noticed this status going around (again) on their Facebook Feed:

Facebook Privacy Hoax

To most eyes, the text sounds like it might be 100% legit because it has legalese in it, but it’s really just the latest versions of an elaborate hoax that has been making the Facebook circuit for years. (If you want to know what your “rights” are on Facebook, you can read your statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Facebook’s Data Policy.)

Facebook Privacy Concerns Top of Mind

The resurgence of this hoax got me thinking: Why would someone (like my friend in the first status), who’s highly educated, has common sense and street smarts, bother even posting the hoax status? Did they look at it and think, “I know this isn’t legit, but yeah I’m going to share it.”… WHY?

A surprise to me was that one of my co-workers, Tammy, posted the hoax to her Facebook Wall. A seasoned web developer and internet aficionado, I was totally caught off guard when I saw her share the status. I had to find out why so I walked the 10 metres over to the “Dev Cave” and asked.

facebook hoax

Facebook Status Hoax Victim Statement

The formal firsthand testimony from hoax victim, Tammy:

Today I fell for a Facebook hoax and posted information that was fake. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? I had a good think about it because I don’t usually fall for things like this.

  1. It had been posted by someone I trusted. 
  2. Suddenly messing with privacy settings is something Facebook has, historically, done with very little notice so it sounded plausible.
  3. I was in a hurry and didn’t fact-check.

The worst part was, I perpetuated the cycle by posting it when others trust me to post factual information.

So how am I handling having made this error? I’m owning it! It’s a valuable lesson that I don’t mind sharing with my timeline. I edited my post to add the link to the Snopes article that debunks it. I did not remove the post text so people could see what it was that had fooled me. I’m addressing comments with good humour, owning up to having not thought before posting, and I point out the Snopes article in my post.

Next time, I’ll take the time to fact-check before I post something.

What Does This Mean…

… for Facebook users

To those on Facebook who shared the post, it’s a lesson, much like Tammy’s, in researching and fact-checking before you share something. It’s super easy to hit that share button and  easy to copy and paste like the hoax tells you to, so think before sharing! But, it’s not just that simple. The hoax brings up another topic, user privacy. I wish that doing something as simple as sharing that status update changed my privacy settings, we all wish things were that easy, but it’s not and it may never be. You still have to change your Facebook privacy settings manually.

The very fact that this hoax still exists after years, even after being debunked, says a lot for what Facebook users want.


… for Facebook

In 2014, Facebook was listening. They unveiled simplified, more plain-language/less legalese privacy documents. These are easy to understand for people who are signing up or using the site. Fast forward, a year later, are many people reading these documents even though the language is less intimidating? What other changes does Facebook have in store for their users? Are they listening to the wants that Facebook users have in regards to privacy? Changing the style of writing for the privacy documents was one step towards more transparency when it comes to sharing and storing our data, but that’s still not enough.

Facebook Statement

… for the Internet

Sometimes it’s hard to remember when you’re online that when you use a tool like Facebook, you are using a tool that collects your information. Facebook exists to allow people to connect and do things, but they also sell that data behind the connections for advertising and market segmentation. We, are after all, the product that makes Facebook money. Without users, there’d be no platform and no people to see banner advertisements, boosted posts or sponsored pages.

When we are using social channels, we use them on an intimate level. For most, a smartphone is the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing we see at night. We forget what’s ours and what belongs to the channel, that’s where things get cloudy. Everyone has a right to privacy online, it’s totally understandable why people would want it, but to expect it from platforms that are generating millions of dollars, the internet may just have to think again.

What are your thoughts on the whole hoax resurgence? Tweet us and let us know!

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