Who owns the content you post on social media?

With the recent resurgence of the popularity of  FaceApp on social media feeds and considering the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, it is timely to consider some of the concerns being raised over data security and privacy in relation to the use of common smartphone applications.

Most social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter, require users to agree to an extremely broad set of Terms and Conditions of Use that allow them access to your data.

This data, which can be used and sold to third parties, is in reality the price for your use of the otherwise “free” app. As it’s often said, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re actually the product being sold.”

That said, what is the legal effect of the Terms of Service that we have each agreed to when using social media Apps and who owns the content you post on social media?

  • FaceApp’s Terms can be found here
  • Snapchat’s Terms can be found here
  • Twitter’s Terms can be found here
  • Facebook’s Terms can be found here and includes:

“…when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Products, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings). This means, for example, that if you share a photo on Facebook, you give us permission to store, copy, and share it with others (again, consistent with your settings) such as service providers that support our service or other Facebook Products you use…”

  • Instagram’s Terms can be found here (Note – Instagram is one of Facebook’s Products).

They are all quite similar in effect as regards the ownership and use of your content – although generally you continue to own your content, they are able to use it as and when they see fit, forever, for free.

Did you know that you can request a copy of the data that Facebook has and it can be downloaded as a .zip file? To access the download your information tool, click here. You will probably be surprised at the depth of information that is held about you

Some people are shocked to find out that it has access to things like all the contacts on their phone to a record of messages sent or received, payment details and location information… it can be quite unnerving!

Reading the T&Cs is so boring… but an agreement is an agreement and you are agreeing to their Terms of Service when you use the App so you can’t complain. What you may not know is that each App will usually have its own privacy and data related settings which can be adjusted modify the type and amount of information obtained and stored (and seen by others) so you can modify them to help protect your own content.

You have to expect however that with any social type of App, there always be a level of information kept about you, sometimes for good reasons (eg, to feed you more content you may be interested in) but also sometimes for bad. It is up to you to decide how much data you want kept or shared and how that affects your user experience


Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal.

For further information in relation to terms and conditions, consumer rights or any business or commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice.

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