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Who Owns Your Social Media Data When You Die?

Without much thought, you log onto Facebook, or another popular social media site, and more than likely never read the ‘terms of service’ agreement – but your in and the next thing you know, you’re sharing photos, videos, notes and sometimes even blogs you’ve written.

Have you thought about what happens to all of this media data when you die?

Nearly all photo-sharing sites, such as Facebook Flickr, Google and Photobucket, among others, all have ‘terms of agreements’ listed, you know, the ones we skip over when signing up?

But what, actually, are you agreeing to when you check that little ‘terms of service’ box? Do you know? Not only do you not own your own data, because when you checked that little box you gave the site ownership, but there is more.

The new trend of “Big Data” which includes a massive amount of data, including yours, that is contained in Social Media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are contained on a ‘big data’ server.

Big Data comes from many sources, and is associated with a distributed computer platform that actually promotes the biggies such as IBM, in an effort to make more money. It really is about data coming from all kind of different places, social networks included.

The Big Data business strategy that is now in effect, is taking that data, and analyzing it, accumulating it, and perhaps studying human genome information, giving it to governmental entities, and business analysists, who can study and read large amounts of data, by renting the servers.

The companies getting on board of ‘Big Data’ acquiring sites and data from many different places are getting rich on selling our personal data for their own purposes.

IBM recently paid U.S. $1.7 billion, in an effort to get their hands on Netezza, which offers data warehouse appliances, for data analytics – and IBM has allocated over 6,000 employees dedicated to data analytics services.

Pretty scary stuff when you are concerned about your privacy. But it is happening, and the answer to the initial question of who owns your data on the social networking sites, and photo sites, even dating sites? They do.

Terms of Service:

Facebook’s terms of service says that not only do they own your data, (sec 2.1) but also if you don’t keep it up to date and accurate, they can terminate your account (sec 14). Your personal data is looked upon as crowd sourcing and ad-targeting. If you’re not adding to that data regularly, they don’t need you.

Be aware – they are storing all of our data in a ‘Big Data’ server, which is open to whomever wants to pay to look it over.


Your privacy has been taken from you, and one example of privacy invasion is when users were posting on their walls from their cell phones, Facebook added the cell phone numbers to all of it’s users profiles without any notification or permission. So if you’ve used a cell phone to access Facebook, check your information page, because most likely your cell phone number is listed.

Many people complained about Facebook putting someone’s cell phone information on the site without any notice, and without even obtaining permission. Most people who discovered this, via other peoples warning postings, went and deleted this private information. But who are we to argue, they own the data.

Giving developers access to your data:

The new APIs that have been in use, quietly, I mean, have you heard of an API? They are called Application Programming Interfaces – which means that when you do anything on a social site, your information can be communicated to other sites, without your knowledge or permission – but wait – you accepted the ‘terms of service’ right?

Facebook recently introduced the Open Graph API: meaning that Facebook not only wants to know everything about you, after all, but they now are making it available to everyone who wants access.

Private data shared:

When you use applications, installed from Facebook, you’re giving not only Facebook access to your private information, but the application developers as well. Very few of these developers are concerned about keeping your data private.

This means that all of your data, everything you post, upload share, etc., is all basically public information. The privacy choices given to you on Facebook are only relevant to other Facebook users.

Technical competency:

With the rapid growth of Facebook, their technical competence has been in question many times. Trusting that your information won’t get hijacked should be standard practice when you visit a site that is as well known as Facebook. Some of the interfaces, like buttons and applications, though, do allow hackers to gain access to personal data. Many mistakes have been found such as accidentally making a users profile completely public, when they preferred private, and many other infractions occur daily.

Facebook does not care about your privacy, and the previous and current acts by the social network site have proven this beyond a doubt.

Just remember that your data does not belong to you once you sign up on Facebook, and many other sites. Back up your data if you have photos or videos that you want to keep should your account be compromised, or you get shut down for inactivity, or for any other reason.

And even though social networking is a fun way to interact with your friends, make sure you realize your information is not private and use these social network sites with that in mind.

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