Facebook Privacy Status Spreads, Gullibility Runs Rampant

Kevin Davis - Author

Sep. 29 2015, Updated 9:54 a.m. ET

If you’re like millions of other Facebook users, your timeline is filling up with yet another iteration of the Facebook privacy disclaimer status update.

In this version, users are posting a message prefixed with some version of “Channel 13 News was just talking about this change in Facebook’s privacy policy. Better safe than sorry. As of September 27 at 9:30 p.m. Eastern standard time, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future…”

The post goes on into a lengthy status update, attempting to look official and seemingly meant to reclaim the elusive privacy we expect in our own living rooms from the clutches of the big bad Facebook wolf.

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According to Snopes, the go-to site for the verification or debunking of viral Facebook shares, Facebook privacy hoaxes like this have been popping up since 2012. They all stress some sort of Facebook policy update, and most have some reference to statutes which are usually made up, but the originators of these privacy messages depend on Facebook users to be too lazy to research them on their own. If you have real privacy concerns on Facebook or other social media sites, Snopes gives the following advice.

If you do not agree with Facebook’s stated policies, you have several options.

  • Decline to sign up for a Facebook account
  • Bilaterally negotiate a modified policy with Facebook
  • Lobby for Facebook to amend its policies through its Facebook Site Governance section
  • Cancel your Facebook account

Don’t sign up? Cancel? For most, those are not realistic options. Living without Facebook would likely cause undue trauma for the majority of Americans aged 18 to 49 who use Facebook at a clip of 87 and 73 percent respectively, according to Pew Research.

The reality of the matter is that when someone signs up for Facebook, they agree to the site’s privacy terms upfront and really have no say after the fact, especially through copy/pasting a status update.

According to Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes, “Under our terms, you grant Facebook permission to use, distribute and share the things you post, subject to the terms and applicable privacy settings.”

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Those who are gullible enough to blindly share the viral privacy-related status update are likely the same who share unfounded news stories, false political claims, conspiracy theories with poor evidence, and other falsehoods that contribute to the willful ignorance or anti-intellectualism that seems to run rampant on Facebook and other social media sites. The fact is, Facebook users are more likely to quickly share an article when the topic reinforces their own ideals or political stances than research the post on their own first to verify its validity.

To avoid spreading falsehoods like the Facebook privacy hoax and others, all that is needed is a minute to do a quick search to check their validity, or at least a moment to apply one’s own critical thinking and reasoning to the claims. Recently, David Niose published a couple articles in Psychology Today about anti-intellectualism, where he warns of its dangers.

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“Though humans are capable of reasoning, it is important to remember that rational thought is not our default setting. Instead, we are by our nature emotional and impulsive, frequently lazy, and interested in many activities other than critical thinking.”

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This is important to keep in mind when reading what others post on Facebook, and deserves a second thought right before we hit that all-too-easy “Share” button and contribute to the problem. Chances are, if it sounds too off-the-wall or too good to be true, it likely is, and we should apply some reasoning before we share items like the recent Facebook privacy hoax.

[Images via Shutterstock]


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