Dear friends: Here we are again. People are posting those privacy alerts on Facebook, as though they were in any way useful or binding.

Maybe there is nothing new under the sun. Maybe Ecclesiastes had it right, lo these thousands of years ago. (Although he at least didn’t have to deal with this Facebook status popping up again.)

It’s the same old hoax in the same old format. (Well, less a “hoax” than another case of a “thing that does not mean what you think it means.”) If you see friends on Facebook posting this — “In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!” — well, these words are as dust blown on the wind. They do not signify anything, legally speaking. For all the good that it will do you in terms of dealing with/weaseling out of/shaking off the uncomfortable coil of your contract with Facebook, you might as well type something like “DEAR FACEBOOK, I HEREBY CLAIM THIS LAND FOR SPAIN.”

As Andrew Noyes (a Facebook spokesman) said in a statement, according to ABC News, that “Under our terms (, you grant Facebook permission to use, distribute, and share the things you post, subject to the terms and applicable privacy settings.”

You cannot simply announce that you do not want to abide by the permission you already granted. This is one case where you cannot revoke consent. As Snopes notes, “Facebook users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they signed up for their accounts, nor can they unilaterally alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms instituted by Facebook, simply by posting a contrary legal notice on their Facebook walls.”

Furthermore, the problem with Facebook is not that it thinks it owns your copyright. It claims many rights to do exciting and possibly dubious things with the content you post, but this is not among them. You would know that, if you had taken the time to read the terms. So posting this legal disclaimer is not merely annoying to your friends but is also a handy way of notifying Facebook that you did not, in fact, read what you were signing up for.

Consider this, instead, your annual/weekly/daily reminder that when you are getting something for free, you are not the consumer: You are the product.

If you really don’t want to give Facebook control of your posts, a better way to protest that would be — well, somewhere else than on Facebook. (The kids seem to be making an exodus already, not for privacy but for the far more compelling reason that Facebook is where your parents are, and no self-respecting social network can long survive that.)