• February 17, 2009

    Facebookers Protest New Terms of Service

    If you look at the new Terms of Service (TOS) posted recently by Facebook, you might be surprised to learn that Facebook is claiming rights to content appearing in your profile. Such content might include photos, music, writing, and the text of the latest "25 Things" meme. On February 4th, Facebook posted a new TOS statement which reads in part:

    "You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof."
    Previously the same section of the TOS read:
    "You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content"
    This major change in Facebook policies has spurred a revolt amongst Facebook users, many of whom are posting the following to their profiles:
    "Notice to Facebook: Notwithstanding FB's new Terms of Use, any use of my content is always subject to my privacy settings and FB's use terminates upon my termination of my account or removal of my content, whichever is the earlier, unless longer to display my shared content on the accounts of my friends."
    Over at the Industry Standard, reporter Paul Boutin published a response from Facebook which reads (in part):
    We are not claiming and have never claimed ownership of material that users upload. The new Terms were clarified to be more consistent with the behavior of the site... One of the most important goals of the new Terms was to be more open to users by being more clear about how their data was handled. We certainly did not — and did not intend — to create any new right or interest for Facebook in users’ data by issuing the new Terms. None of the news or blog reports at the time we announced them on February 4 suggested any confusion or misunderstanding.
    Meanwhile, over on the Facebook blog, founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote:
    A couple of weeks ago, we updated our terms of use to clarify a few points for our users. A number of people have raised questions about our changes, so I'd like to address those here. I'll also take the opportunity to explain how we think about people's information. Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with. When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they've asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn't help people share that information. One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever. When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created—one in the person's sent messages box and the other in their friend's inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear. In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work. Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.
    Hopefully, Zuckerberg's explanation is close to the terms Facebook was trying to articulate. Regardless, the movement questioning Facebook's intentions remains strong.