Facebook privacy hoax claims company will start charging users

Have your friends been posting that Facebook will start charging you to keep your account private? Here's what Facebook has to say about that.

Text sent to server as you type, but that's just for linking and tagging purposes, company says

'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,' Facebook wrote Monday. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Have your friends been posting that Facebook will start charging you to keep your account private?

A post making the rounds on Facebook in recent days claims just that.

"If you paste this message on your page, it will be offered free (I said paste not share)," added a version of the post pasted to Facebook's Help Centre. "If not tomorrow, all your posts can become public."

In some cases, it also encourages users to paste an apparent legal notice denying Facebook permission to use their photos and posts. In others, the legal notice is copy and pasted separately.

In response, Facebook wrote Monday, "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. And the thing about copying and pasting a legal notice is just a hoax. Stay safe out there Earthlings!"

This isn't the first time those hoaxes have surfaced on Facebook. The hoax about Facebook charging its users first surfaced in 2013, reports the website TechAdvisor. The legal notice has been kicking around since 2012.

The hoaxes are successful because users are already concerned about their privacy and the use of their photos on Facebook, thanks to some disconcerting stories involving Facebook that have been reported in the media. For example, in 2014, a married Ontario woman whose Facebook profile photo ended up on the dating website Zoosk.com after she accidentally clicked on a pop-up on Facebook.

More recently, a group of Facebook users in B.C. sued the company, alleging it violated users' privacy by using their photos in paid ads without their consent. The B.C. Court of Appeal sided with Facebook, deciding in June that B.C. privacy law doesn't apply to the California company, due to a clause in Facebook's terms of use — which every user must agree to, whether they read it or not.

In fact, the best way to protect your information on Facebook is to make sure you read Facebook's data policy and manage your privacy settings. They can be accessed on desktop from the lock icon on the top right of screen and on mobile from the hamburger menu icon on the top right.

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