As Facebook is on the verge of convening a massive user consultation regarding potential changes to its member rights and data usage policies, a hoax privacy notice is making the rounds on the social network, with members being hoodwinked into propagating security-related concerns by posting it on their profile in the false belief it will protect the content they post.
Wrongly saying that Menlo Park's recent stock market floatation has already affected users' rights and compromised their ownership of the unique videos and photographs they share, the warning currently going viral has no legal status and Facebook's privacy policies are still the same as ever.
The misleading cautionary disclaimer reads in part: "For those of you who do not understand the reasoning behind this posting, Facebook is now a publically traded entity. Unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site."
In fact, Facebook members maintain ownership of the intellectual property they may upload to the site and are subject to the same terms they were when they joined the site.
Depending on privacy and applications settings, some users may unwittingly grant the social network "a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to us any IP content that you post." In other words, photos, videos, and status updates set to public are fair game.
Facebook hoaxes are common and generally designed to spread fear across the popular social network. Most typically, they are either sensationalist announcements - reject friend requests from user X because they are a Satanist/rapist/paedophile - or donation-based scams purporting to be raising money for good causes.
However, fraud notices also target the company and the site itself from time to time, with past deceptions including claims that Facebook was becoming a premium service.
The Facebook hoax comes on the back of a particularly unsettling week for social networkers. Millions of LinkedIn and eHarmony had their passwords stolen earlier in the week and posted on a Russian hacking site. Last.fm is the latest website to have account protection details compromised.