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So You Think You Own Your Data?

Web Hosting Blog

Despite last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, most people continue to use social media at much the same frequency that we did before. Though users are a lot more aware of the implications of sharing personal information, photos and video online now, it’s not diminished it’s popularity. Social media can be really useful for promoting your business, staying in touch with old friends and keeping up to date with the news in your local area. It’s also a great way to share photos with family and friends, but you need to keep in mind what your rights are, and stay mindful of what those companies are allowed to do with your data and photos. In other words, make sure you’re aware of what the terms and conditions say. To help our readers with this, we’ve put together a useful summary of the “small print” surrounding data rights for a few of the big social media companies.


Facebook’s T&C’s state that they can use your name, profile picture, your “likes” and any of your posts in order to make money for themselves, however, they don’t have to pay you to do this.

They can share your age, location, gender and interests with any advertiser in the world. However, you are allowed to ask them not to. They can use your personal information to show you adverts on your news feed, but doesn’t have to make it obvious that what you’re seeing is an advert.

Facebook advises that you are the owner of any photos and videos that you post, however, Facebook’s also allowed to use them for any purpose it likes, and doesn’t have to compensate you for the privilege. When you delete a photo or video, Facebook are allowed to keep a copy of it on their systems.

The other companies that Facebook owns (eg. Instagram and WhatsApp) can share any information they have about you with Facebook. Should another company ever buy Facebook, that sale will include your personal information.

If you suggest improvements or new products to Facebook and they use your idea, they’re under no obligation to pay you for this, or to give you any credit.


Similarly to Facebook, Instagram states that you are the official owner of any photos and videos you post. However, Instagram are allowed to use them, and they can also let other people, anywhere in the world, use them. Those third parties might pay Instagram for the use of said photos and videos, but Instagram will not pay you.

You can close your Instagram account, but Instagram are allowed to keep all the data they have already collected on you up to that point, which may include your photos/videos.

Instagram’s T&C’s state that they are allowed to share your personal information with other companies associated with Instagram. This could include your name, email address, school/place of work, where you live, your photos, your phone number, your past geolocations, who your friends are, your birthday and information from your DMs. Instagram state they are not responsible for what other companies might do with this information.


When you’re using the app, Snapchat collects information about you, including what you search for, who you interact with, details of your phone/device and wireless network, web pages you view before and after using Snapchat, where you are, photos stores on your phone, details of your phone contacts.

Snapchat is allowed to publicly display or sell on anything that you have posted. They don’t have to pay you for that.

Snapchat also collects your phone number, date of birth, and sometimes your real name and payment card information. If Snapchat is ever sold to another company, this information will be sold along with it.


The messages that you send on WhatsApp are encrypted, so WhatsApp aren’t able to read the contents of these. However there’s a lot more information about you that WhatsApp is allowed to access and store, including your mobile phone number, your contacts and whether they use WhatsApp or not, who you have messaged and when, what groups you’re in, and where you are. They can also share this information with the companies connected to WhatsApp, which are Facebook and Instagram.


YouTube’s T&C’s reinforce that users own any videos they upload, but with that now familiar caveat that they can use that same content however they like, and can also allow other companies to use it, without you being paid anything. YouTube is owned by Google. This means that information taken from your YouTube account can be shared with Google too, including your name, phone number, email, friends, location, the videos you’ve uploaded, the videos you’ve watched, and your IP address. If you appear in someone else’s YouTube video but did not give your consent, you can complain to YouTube and they will ask the poster to take it down, but only if you can be clearly identified.

We hope that this simplified summary gives you a bit more information on how social media companies are allowed to use your data. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding what to post (or not to post). Always make sure you read the T&Cs in full for any online service that you use, especially if you’re providing them with personal information. Further to that, make sure you stay fully up to date with any changes to those terms for services you already use.