Facebook: What you didn’t know you agreed to

By Evan Munch

After finally coming to grips with the looming semester’s required reading, the last thing on anyone’s reading list is Facebook’s terms and privacy policies.

Last Tuesday, Facebook announced major changes in its privacy settings, as it will soon allow users to more easily adjust sharing settings and approve photos before they’re tagged in them.

For most Facebook users, like Shelly Janevicius, junior in LAS, a rapid scroll, and an “I agree” quickly bypass the 9,700-word documents.

“It’s a lot to read and I just want to get on Facebook,” Janevicius said.

The policies, however, are rich with information that many users aren’t exactly sure they’re agreeing to.

*Who owns what you put on Facebook?*

Policies regarding intellectual property — pretty much anything posted to Facebook including wall posts, photos, and videos — are one of the major subjects of Facebook’s terms. It’s an evolving policy that has caused controversy in the past. The policy reads:

“You own all the content and information you post on Facebook,” but “you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free worldwide license to use any IP (Intellectual Property) content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.”

In other words, Facebook can use an account holder’s material essentially whenever and however it sees fit, without paying that user for it. This license ends when you delete the content or your Facebook account, though under previous terms and conditions this license was “perpetual” and “irrevocable.”

This reason, among others, turned Savannah Hipkins away from Facebook.

“I had a Facebook for like a year,” said Hipkins, freshman in DGS. “I really didn’t like the idea of them owning what I put on there and the idea of maybe going back a few years later and reading what I had posted at that time.”

*What happens when you delete something from Facebook?*

One of the more inexplicit sections of Facebook’s terms is in regards to deleted content: “When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time.”

The policy does not more elaborately define “a reasonable period of time.”

Kris Posedel, junior in ACES, isn’t surprised by Facebook’s vague language.

“You hear a lot of news stories like, ‘Facebook is up to this or that,’” Posedel said. “I make a point to not put a lot of sensitive material on Facebook.”

Some information, such as sent messages, can’t be deleted from Facebook, or will be cited as “Anonymous Facebook User.”

*What information does Facebook give to advertisers?*

The vast amount of information Facebook collects about users is tremendously valuable to advertisers and their strategic marketing. This is why ads on a user’s home page seem to cater to his or her likes and interests.

“I’ll like a band or like something and all of a sudden the advertisements are like, ‘Do you like this band? Check out our website’,” Janevicius said. “They know what I like, but they’re probably just looking at what I’ve said on Facebook.”

Yet Facebook tells advertisers more than just what a user has publicly posted. The policy reads: “We allow advertisers to choose the characteristics of users who will see their advertisements…(including information you may have decided not to show other users, such as your birth year or other sensitive personal information of preferences) to select the appropriate audience for those advertisements.”

That Facebook will reveal some information users have chosen to keep private is a little creepy to users like Janevicius.

“That’s kinda weird … Yeah I don’t know if I like that as much.”