November 26th, 2012 | Opinion

MCHENRY: Updating My Status

Do you get Facebook spam? Mark Zuckerberg wants to know.
Do you get Facebook spam? Mark Zuckerberg wants to know. Photo by MarkZ/Creative Commons.

In response to changes in Facebook’s guidelines, I am updating my status to declare that, without my consent, it will be illegal to disseminate my witty status updates, my wall posts about the James Bond movie and especially not that photo album from that one party last week. For commercial use, my signature – No. 2 pencil or pen (blue or black ink) – is required at all times! Suck it, Zuckerberg, xoxo.

If you’ve seen a disclaimer like this on your news feed, then you’ve been on Facebook in the last 24 hours. Chances are that you have also heard that this sort of status doesn’t actually mean anything.

According to CNN, the “copyright meme” first appeared on the site earlier this year. It spread between users who, following Facebook’s IPO, began to fear a misuse of what they wrongly judged to be their own personal data.

Facebook, on the other hand, has (correctly) maintained that such information always belongs to the company, as per the site’s terms of use. In this deal, the site is contractually obligated to respect your privacy settings, but, short of deleting your account, there’s no way out of the contract you signed when creating your account. Big Brother, it seems, is here to stay.

That’s not a comfortable thought (thus the statuses). Social media was sold with kindergarten-friendly words like “connectivity” and “openness,” but most people have forgotten that sharing is a two-way street. If you want to know about other people online, you have to willing to make just as much of your life public.

Maybe Facebook is using your collection of Kristen Wiig GIFs as part of a plan to take over the world, but the alternative is far more likely: that nobody — even Zuckerberg — knows what happens to the mounds of information that users routinely give up.

In light of this, a status full of easy legalese seems as good a defense as any. The response status, which filled my news feed at least as fast as any meme could, is just as much about posturing as it is actual protection. Same goes for the “omg guys, just calm down with the copyright stuff” meta-response.

Everyone wants to pretend that their Facebook is safe, or at least safer than everyone else’s. Of course it isn’t! No matter what you post, your information is out there. There’s no going back on a contract, even if it feels like your soul is on the line.