General Question

jca's avatar

Does FB sell photos of people to Google?

Asked by jca (36002points) May 13th, 2010

when i look up names of people that i know on Google i see their FB photos. Does FB sell the photos to Google Images?

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13 Answers

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bongo's avatar

Once you upload a photo to facebook it is their photo, they can do with it as they wish, it is no longer your property. I very rarely upload photos to facebook and I always keep all of my photos that i have been tagged in private to everyone.

robmandu's avatar

[Edit:] Sorry, meant to suggest you see #3.

richardhenry's avatar

@bongo That isn’t true. Your content remains your content, you just give Facebook permission (in copyright terms, a license) to use it for the purposes of storing on their servers and making available to you and others (exactly who those others are depends on your privacy settings).

If you delete an item of content, you revoke that permission and it must be deleted from their data stores within a reasonable amount of time.

You are not transferring ownership to Facebook.

bongo's avatar

If you upload a photo to facebook newspapers can print them free of charge, they can also be used on tv, they dont have to have ure permission if they are on facebook however most of the time the journalist will email you to tell you, other users can also copy them and use them as they wish. This also is the case if someone has taken the photo off facebook before you have deleted it, they can still use them in newspapers etc.

ok facebook wont sell them but there are plenty of people who will take them and there is nothing you can do to stop them other than make your own photos invisible to everyone else. that doesnt always stop them either as the photo may originate from someone elses profile that doesnt have the same security settings as you.

richardhenry's avatar

Here’s the relevant statements in the Facebook Terms:

You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.

Non-exclusive: When you upload a photo or post a status update, you are giving Facebook the right to use it, but not exclusively Facebook. You can relicense the content elsewhere (upload it to Flickr, sell it, make posters, whatever). A non-exclusive license is a copyright license whereby the ownership is retained in full by the content creator or current license holder. This is standard practice for web services, and they legally need a license in order to store your content.

Royalty free: Facebook do not have to pay royalty charges in order to store your content or make it available to you or others.

This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

Once you delete your photo, Facebook no longer have the right to use it. They must purge it from their data stores. If you post a photo or comment on someone else’s wall, for example, Facebook retain the right to use it until either you or they delete it.

When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

Your data may persist in backups that other Facebook users cannot access for a period of time, until those backups are deleted.

richardhenry's avatar


“If you upload a photo to facebook newspapers can print them free of charge, they can also be used on tv, they dont have to have ure permission if they are on facebook”

This is simply not true. You are not releasing your copyright ownership of the content you post on Facebook by posting it on Facebook. You remain the copyright owner, and Facebook cannot relicense your content to others.

If a media outlet finds your photo on Facebook and uses it for one purpose or another, it is no different to them finding it on say, a blog you might write.

They must explicitly be given your permission in order to use the content, either because of a license you attached to the work, or because you explicitly said that “Super News Corp.” can use this photo that I took. Simply making a photo available for other people to see does not constitute as a license.

If you know someone that has had their photos taken from Facebook and used by a media outlet without their permission, they can sue the media outlet for breach of copyright.

richardhenry's avatar

Oh, and sorry, to actually answer the question:

No, Facebook can’t sell your content (or even give it away, for that matter). However, if your content is publicly available because your privacy settings on Facebook are set like that, this portion of the Facebook Terms comes into action:

When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information.

It may then end up on Google Image Search, which legally, is a citation of the content. If you change your privacy settings to stop the image from being publicly available, it will disappear from Image Search.

lilikoi's avatar


What do you make of the “sub-licensable” term?

I looked it up. Apparently, it means:

“A license granted by a licensee to a third party, under the authority of the license originally granted by a licensor to the licensee.”—Wikipedia

That sounds to me like you grant them a license to use your content, and also grant them the authority to license your content to others to use.

And this statement

When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information.

would seem to be a bit misleading. I assume it is that you are allowing everyone on the internet to access and use this information, but that they are required to abide by copyright law in doing so. They should really make that clear if that is the case. It almost sounds like you’re giving your stuff away for free the way they wrote that.

richardhenry's avatar

@lilikoi As far as I understand sublicensing, it is a little more complex because the scope to whom it can be licensed is limited by the law unless you are explicit in the agreement, which works like this: Facebook cannot simply sublicense the data to anyone, it must be a partner involved in the execution of their responsibilities within the original agreement (as in, to provide a service).

Correct me if I’m wrong. (Either way, I would much prefer if Facebook were more more clear about that.)

In regard to the second point, I agree that this is hazy, however in order to grant a copyright license, you must be explicit, not implicit. If you sent a funny photo to a friend with the note “do what you will!”, you would not be automatically granting them a copyright license.

It is important to note that Facebook have defined the term “IP content” and “IP license” further up in the agreement, and because these terms are not used in this clause, they do not apply.

lilikoi's avatar

@richardhenry Thanks for the reply. I really have no idea either way (I was asking you, lol) but what you said makes sense and I bet you are right.

richardhenry's avatar

@lilikoi I hope so, otherwise there’s some dodgy things going on in Facebook’s TOS! I’m reasonably familiar with this minefield for my work, but things like sublicensing are getting a little bit outside of the realm of what I fully understand.

Hope it was helpful anyway.

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