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Facebook has over a billion active users. If it was a country, Facebook would be the third largest in the world. And like with anything that affects a large number of people, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about it. You’ll be surprised by how many of your Facebook beliefs are completely and utterly wrong.
Myth: People Can See Who Viewed Their Profile
Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope. No one can see who viewed their profile, and that’s final. There is no Facebook trick which can do that, no app which will magically show you how your ex is stalking you, and no way to find out if the creepy guy from HR is endlessly clicking through your photos.
This is one of those legends that gets spread around all the time, especially by several apps who claim to let you find out your “secret admirers”. We looked at this in detail and found that you can’t see who viewed your Facebook profile, no matter what.
Facebook itself is so tired of this that they put out a disclaimer too: “No, Facebook doesn’t let people track who views their profile. Third-party apps also can’t provide this functionality.” And it doesn’t work the other way around either: “Facebook doesn’t let you track who views your profile or your posts (ex: your photos).”
Facebook also wants your help in dealing with apps that are scamming people by claiming they have this ability. So if you come across anything that claims to offer this, please report the app.
Myth: Facebook Messages From My Friends Are Safe to Click
Your friends would never want to harm you, and you’re right about that. Unfortunately, online miscreants try to take advantage of this trust. Sometimes, you’ll get a weird message from your friend asking you to click a link. Don’t do it!
Facebook malware and viruses are common, so you need to exercise the same precautions here as you would elsewhere on the Internet. If you have received a message from a friend with a link, before you click it, ask them whether they intended to send that to you. If it’s a public post, then before clicking, go through the comments and see if anyone has warned that this is a hoax or a virus.
A while back, there was a Facebook Graphic App hoax going around that tried a similar strategy. It’s difficult to keep your guard up against simple social network messages, but it’s necessary if you’re going to stay safe on the Internet.
Myth: Facebook is Going to Charge You Money
Every few months, a post starts floating around on Facebook that the social network is soon going to stop being free and make you pay for usage. Well, stop worrying, Facebook is never, ever going to make you pay.
The message usually reads something like, “Facebook is going paid! It costs $5.99 to keep the subscription gold of your status of life ‘private’. If you paste this message on your page, it will be offered free.”
It spread so widely recently that Facebook had to put out a statement quashing it, stating: “While there may be water on Mars, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet today. Facebook is free and it always will be.”
But well, while you’re never going to pay actual money for it, everything has a price. And the price of free is selling data to advertisers, as far as Facebook is concerned.
Myth: Facebook Owns My Photos and Sells Them for Ads
The other rumor that was spreading recently was that Facebook is selling your photos to advertisers. If you believed that, you’ve been hoaxed. Facebook explicitly states, “No, we don’t sell any of your information to anyone and we never will.”
There are two parts to this hoax. The first is the notion that Facebook is digging through your timeline to find posts and photos, and is selling those to advertisers. Well, no, it isn’t doing that, and rest assured that you own the copyrights for the photos you shot and posted.
The second part is where the legalese comes in. Facebook’s terms and conditions state clearly that while you own the copyright, the company is free to use things you post on the social network for its own advertising. So if you see a Facebook ad on a billboard in Times Square and your profile flashes on it with something you wrote, then Facebook does not need to pay you anything, it is well within its rights.
Also, it means that if you’ve liked a certain page, your friends might see a photo your face showing as a supporter of the page when the page is advertising on Facebook. So be careful what you “like”.
Myth: Copy-Pasting a Legal Notice Changes Things
For some reason, every once in a while, you’ll see people posting something that looks like legal jargon, expressing the permissions they are willing to give Facebook over their content. It looks something like this:
As of October 15, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me.
Hey, Matlock, that’s not how the law works. Publishing that rubbish to your Facebook wall does only one thing: it displays your ignorance to the world.
When you signed up for Facebook, there were clear terms and conditions you agreed to, and posting something to your wall doesn’t change that, as several lawyers have noted over the years.
If you actually want to discuss what Facebook can use and what it can’t, you need to individually negotiate that with them. Otherwise, if you want to control all your data, the only option is to quit Facebook entirely.
Myth: It’s Easy to Quit Facebook
Now, while one option to keep Facebook away from using your data is to just quit Facebook, you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to delete your account. Facebook has an entire section on deactivating and deleting accounts, but it’s still not as simple as that!
For starters, even if you tell Facebook to delete your account, it doesn’t happen immediately. It’s a wait of at least two weeks, and Facebook says that deleting every single instance of you from its social network might take months.
You’ll also need to manually disconnect any app you have connected to Facebook, uninstall the Facebook app from your phone and tablet, clear out your browser history, and go through a litany of steps in our guide to properly close your Facebook account. And if you accidentally log in during that two-week period, you get to start again.
And at the end of it, while you are no longer on Facebook, it’s still watching you…
Myth: If I Don’t Use Facebook, It Doesn’t Know Anything About Me
Oh, that’s just naive. Facebook is a social network, and if you know a lot of people who use it, chances are that the social network has information about you. It’s called a “shadow profile”.
Here’s what happens: When your friends use Facebook, they give it access to their contact book and personal information. Now let’s say one of your friends has you and your phone number in their contact book. Facebook stores this. Now let’s say another friend has you, your phone number, and your email address in their contact book. Facebook will also store that and match it to the first information. Let’s say your boss has stored your name with your phone number and home address. Facebook gets that too. And without you ever knowing it, Facebook makes a “shadow profile” for you, which contains your name, your phone number, your address, and your email—even though you never gave it any of that information.
That’s a simplistic example of how data comes together. Facebook has much more complex algorithms running that can match more sensitive information. If you’re interested in finding out more, Angela has everything you need to know about Facebook’s shadow profiles.
In today’s connected world, unfortunately, there is almost nothing you can do to stop this other than to go completely off the grid and make sure no-one takes any photos of you. I’m not even sure that would work, to be honest.
Myth: Facebook is Getting a Dislike Button
For a long time now, people have been hoping for a “Dislike” button much like the “Like” button. But while Facebook wants you to get more Likes, a “Dislike” button would go against the fabric of the positive experience Facebook wants to push, according to founder Mark Zuckerberg.
This rumor was especially dominant recently when news spread that Facebook was adding some new types of reactions apart from Like. Even the mainstream media picked it up and said a Dislike button was coming. But well, the media lied to you, there is no Dislike button. Instead, Facebook released new types of emojis as responses to posts.
If you see a Facebook app that adds a Dislike button or even a third-party browser extension, don’t install it. It’s not made by Facebook and there is a chance some of these have malware.
Myth: Facebook is Overcrowded and Needs to Delete Inactive Accounts
Ever seen a message, purportedly from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, that the social network is getting overcrowded? The message goes on to ask you to prove you’re active by copy-pasting that message or downloading something, otherwise your account will be deleted.
Don’t worry, Facebook is never going to shut because there are too many people on it. Even if your account is inactive, it won’t remove it.
It’s an old myth, but this rumor started spreading again earlier this year when Facebook announced it would be removing Likes to Business Pages from inactive accounts. This was misinterpreted as “Facebook is removing inactive accounts”.
Facebook was only removing those Likes because some businesses artificially boost their Likes through fake accounts. By removing Likes from such accounts, which are usually inactive, Facebook is reflecting a more accurate representation of a business’s fans.
The bottom line is that if you ever see something on your timeline asking you to download or copy-paste something to keep your account active, don’t do it. If it looks really serious, contact your Facebook grievance officer.
Myth: Facebook Requires ID Proof
Facebook stresses it wants to be community of real people and not fake names, and scamsters try to take advantage of this. New users are therefore more likely to see this scam than others. You might come across a message—especially a private message—saying something like, “Facebook requires you to scan and send a valid photo ID to prove your identity. This is for the safety and security of all users. If you don’t, Facebook will have to delete your account.” Ignore it, or report it.
There are only two instances where Facebook will actually require ID proof from you:
- If someone has reported your account as fake or as an imposter, then Facebook will suspend your account and ask you to provide ID proof. This means you will not be able to access Facebook at all! It’s a terrible, confusing policy, but know that if you are already logged into Facebook and are being asked for your ID proof, then that isn’t coming from Facebook, it’s probably a miscreant.
- If you are famous enough and want people to know that you are the famous personality, not someone by the same name, then you need ID proof to get your account verified by Facebook.
This means that any message you are seeing inside Facebook is a scam, and your photo ID is going to someone with malicious intent, not to Facebook.
How to Guard Yourself Against Scams
You can protect yourself from a lot of Facebook myths if you understand the anatomy of a Facebook scam. For anything else, check if it has been mentioned on Snopes, a good resource to debunk falsehoods on the Internet. And finally, ask someone you trust with the world of tech before you take any action.
Have you fallen for a Facebook scam in the past? How do you guard yourself against these myths?
Image Credits: geralt / Pixabay, Simon / Pixabay, woman on laptop / Kaboompics.com, Svilen Milev / FreeImages, geralt (2) / Pixabay, Public Domain Pictures / Pixabay, Ervins Strauhmanis / Flickr, geralt (3) / Pixabay, OpenClipArt / Pixabay, geralt (4) / Pixabay