facebook content

February 17, 2009

Facebook’s updates to their Terms of Service have caused quite a stir this weekend, being picked up by the Consumerist and the New York Times. They have apparently taken out the section that states the User Content is removed after an account is deleted. The interpretation is that if you deactivate your Facebook account, the content you had posted remains on the site – presumably still under the “irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license” you granted them in the beginning. This change has led people to question the ownership of content…again.

Now, their privacy policy explains that even if you remove information, archived copies are kept. It also goes on to state that shared communications (private messages, etc.) are not really removable (i.e. you can’t really delete all evidence that you were active on Facebook). So when Mr. Zuckerberg blogs that the way messages and their copies work on Facebook is the area that needs clarification, I feel like he’s just brushing off the privacy concerns. Yes, they need some rights to store and display these messages, but they don’t need the complete, original license you granted when you started your account. Perhaps they just need to specify what Facebook is allowed to do with the information from terminated accounts.

This situation is similar to the News Feed debut. His blog post when people flipped out over the News Feed was an attempt to appease the masses by acknowledging the anger, but it didn’t really do anything. If you look closely, Mr. Zuckerberg is just saying “hold tight, you’ll like it eventually”. And in the end, how many people really quit Facebook over it? In truth, I love the News Feed; I wish more people turned off their privacy settings. Users are pretty adaptable to most changes. They get angry; they get over it; they keep going. Privacy settings were added later, and I’m sure the Terms of Service will get changed again soon (because they’re always changing). So maybe this is just another “heads up” that online content is less ephemeral than it appears.

Update: The NYT is reporting that Facebook has reverted to the old Terms of Service due to the outcry of the public. I expect changes will come again soon, but they will be better thought through. Also, Mashable discussed a poll (found by CNET) that Facebook gave to users about the changes. It said that only 6% agreed with the changes, but a whole 38% didn’t know. That pretty much means that after it hit the news, 38% of the users didn’t care or didn’t know about the changes. That’s a lot! You can see the skew in population of peopel who read Mashable when they give their results from their own poll (88% against, 7% for, 5% indifferent).


One comment

  1. It makes no sense that Facebook would risk messing up a good thing by edging in on people’s intellectual property. They had people’s trust and then they go and risk losing it; not smart.

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