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Summary: Facebook Privacy Policy–Meant to protect users or a corporation?

Facebook’s terms of service is a well structured document about their privacy policy that is intended to inform users of their rights and obligations. The fact that this privacy policy is written in clear, easy to read English, has bullet points, and easy to navigate with subtitles shows that it is user friendly and that Facebook wants their users to be informed. Although this is valuable because it invalidates circulating rumors about the lack of user privacy rights, there are several obligations that users, developers and operators, and advertisers are being asked to comply with, which appear unreasonable.

The users on Facebook have intellectual property rights over the content they post on Facebook, which includes photos and videos; however, users grant Facebook a transferable, sub-licensable worldwide license to use their IP content. User content is further only protected to the extent that they wish. For example, is a user chooses to make their content public on Facebook, then it can be accessed by anyone, and that is a conscious user choice for which Facebook is not responsible. Next, if users send comments and suggests to Facebook about how to improve the website, they waive their rights to be compensated

The privacy policy that implies a “trust” between Facebook and its users, but, a careful reading shows Facebook is protecting itself more than its users. Facebook states that they need users’ help to continue operating Facebook and to keep it safe by not posting viruses or malicious codes, unlawful marketing, and offensive, violence inciting, discriminatory, pornographic material on Facebook. Furthermore, Facebook trusts its users to be honest by providing their real personal information and to keep it up to date, to not create another account, to keep it up to date, to not use Facebook if they are under 13 or a convicted sex offender, and to not transfer their account without written consent from Facebook. Facebook expects its users to obtain consent from the people they are inviting to join Facebook, and Facebook is not responsible for the sending of any unwanted invitations. Facebook also trusts users to not infringe on others’ intellectual property rights by not using their content without their permission, but states its not responsible if this happens.

There are also hard set rules for developers and operators, but not for Facebook. The developers and operators of applications and websites linked to Facebook are only allowed to use the data they need to operate the application. They also need to have their own privacy policy that is easily accessible to users. They also must delete any user data received from Facebook if a user requests it and have the necessary contact information easily accessible for users to make such requests.  Facebook user information is also illegal to use for any selling or advertising creative purposes, even if the user consents.  Facebook has the right to cancel contracts with developers and operators if they use user data in a way that is inconsistent with Facebook’s policy. Facebook does not guarantee that its platform will always be free. Facebook can also offer or create applications for users that may compete with those of existing developers and operators of applications. Facebook can also analyze the content and data of applications for commercial use.

Similarly, advertisers are given little rights, whereas Facebook reserves rights over advertisements on Facebook,  which includes altering in any way Facebook thinks will generate more clicks or viewers. Facebook is also not responsible for click fraud or other technological issues that may effect the cost of the advertisements, and advertisers cannot sue Facebook for this. Facebook has the right to use advertisements for its own promotional campaigns. Advertisers have no right to issue press releases or other information about their business relationship with Facebook. Facebook can reject or remove any had for any reason Facebook seems fit. Lastly, by using Facebook, users also grant Facebook the right to use their personal information to generate advertisements that target them and they have no option to opt out.

Finally, Facebook’s privacy policy indicates a lack of concern for the user and shows that users have truly limiting rights to appeals regarding Facebook. Facebook offers a notice within 7 days of releasing a change in its policy to all users, and gives them an opportunity to comment on the change. However, if users continue to use Facebook they demonstrate their user consent, and failure to read the notice is not Facebook’s fault. Legal claims and law suits can only be made in, and are only subject to the laws of Santa Clara County, California. If a claim is brought forth regarding a particular user, the user is obligated by law to hold Facebook harmless. Furthermore, even California residents are legally required to waive their rights, which are covered by the California Civil Code, if any case is taken into court. Lastly, if user, developer, operator, or advertiser is able to sue Facebook or win a case in court, they cannot be compensated more than $100.

Facebook’s privacy policy also defines terms such as active user, use, information, Facebook, data, etc to elucidate any confusions about the terms of service, which are useful to the reader, but it has a rhetorical motive to distance the reader and user from the agreement.

All in all, Facebook does not have its users interests at heart. The policy cleverly starts with user rights that indicates their rights to intellectual property and then slowly progresses into demonstrating the restrictions on those rights–a very rhetorical move that persuades readers and users that Facebook protects their right, when really they only protect their own.


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