June 6, 2012 at 1:16 PM ET
You may have gotten a posting in recent days passed along from a friend on Facebook, a well-meaning friend at that. But, listen up: The notice supposedly from Facebook about privacy and its IPO is not from the social network, and it's a hoax. Do your yourself — and your friends — a favor and don't pass it on.
The notice, which says now that Facebook is a publicly traded company, "unless you state otherwise, anyone can infringe on your right to privacy once you post to this site. It is recommended that you and other members post a similar notice as this, or you may copy and paste this version. If you do not post such a statement once, then you are indirectly allowing public use of items such as your photos and the information contained in your status updates."
Chester Wisniewski, a senior security advisor for Sophos, writes on the company's blog that the message and various varieties of them "are simply another chain letter-type hoax pinned upon wishful thinking."
Unfortunately, he says, "taking control of your online identity is not as simple as making a declaration on your Facebook wall. Using any website to store content or personal details requires compliance with the site's Terms of Service."
If a Facebook user is "uncomfortable" with the site "monetizing your content or making your content available to the US government you either need to avoid posting the content to Facebook, or more carefully control your privacy settings and hope the authorities don't seek a court order for your information," he writes.
Snopes, a hoax-busting site, said that just because Facebook is a publicly traded company "has nothing to do with privacy rights. Whatever the legality of the U.S. federal government (or other persons, agencies or institutions) monitoring your account or using your profile information, it is not altered just because Facebook is now a publicly traded company."
A spokesperson for Facebook told msnbc.com Wednesday it is aware of the "recent status update that is being widely shared implying the ownership of your Facebook content has recently changed. This is not true and has never been the case. Facebook does not own your data and content."
For more information, the spokesperson said, users should look at the second section of Facebook's Terms of Service, Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy's How We Use the Information We Receive section.
If you want to do something immediate about Facebook privacy, you can: The company is asking users to vote by noon ET/ 9 a.m. PT Friday (June 8) on changes to its privacy policies.
Those changes include new sections explaining how the site uses people's information, and approving the notion of Facebook to start showing people ads on outside websites, "targeting the pitches to interests and hobbies that users express on Facebook," as the AP wrote last week.
You can learn more about that vote — which is real — here.