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Facebook Terms Update Creates Heated Debate

12:58 pm on Feb 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Facebook's recent update to its Terms seems to have generated a great deal of debate surrounding the issue of user content ownership. For example, uploaded pictures belong to whom? It seems the overly complex legalese has generated much of the anger.

Mark Zuckerberg posts clarification on the Facebook blog. [blog.facebook.com]

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.

Like any service, the moral of the story is that we should all think carefully about what we upload, and to where.

4:29 pm on Feb 17, 2009 (gmt 0)


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It's a tough legal slope to get right but if you don't want something coming back to haunt you down the road, don't put it on Facebook or don't signup for Facebook in the first place.

Unfortunately it's a little more difficult to control what other people put up there so don't have to much fun when there is a camera around or you might get Phelped.

4:57 pm on Feb 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

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"We're at an interesting point in the development of the open online world"

Actually we all know that SM platforms are just trying so hard to monetize their platforms but they can't work it out. And if I can conclude that from my position I think others can too.

In the meantime they (SM platforms) are just pooling as much personal data as possible and making it as difficult as possible to get out of the chain to protect this commodity.

I don't believe that it is not possible to explain clearly how people's personal information, experiences and whatever else you want to call it, get used monetized and shared. Neither to develop technology that removes people from SM platforms easily.

Not blaming either business or users here, but I would say a little more social conscioussness and a little less attempt at poorly developed marketing speak (as though we take that at face value), and we'd probably find something that people would be interested in and use...And you could properly monetize.

8:31 pm on Feb 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Unfortunately it's a little more difficult to control what other people put up there so don't have to much fun when there is a camera around or you might get Phelped.

Well ... that means pretty much never have fun then. There is always a cell phone camera around.
What will be interesting to see is whether all of this open-ness might lead to more open-mindedness about the misadventures everyone is prone to. Though if politics is any guide the finger-pointing will continue even if it means everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else.
Time will tell...

Oh, and about the actual topic of this post - don't worry, according to Marc (in that same blog post)

In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want.

Problem solved ;)
9:24 pm on Feb 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

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In short, there is no technical reason at all for the terms to be as strict as they are. But Facebook chooses to be "overly formal and protective of the rights we need," however, there is no legal reason to need the rights they are taking.

As well, while Facebook says they never claimed ownership [thestandard.com] what their terms, in fact, do is take away ownership from their users.

The largest Facebook group, "Users against Facebooks new TOS", is around 30,000 members right now (36 hours after creation), it's a paltry percentage of the 500 million members they claim to have. (That's like 0.006% of their user base. Whee.)

In short: Don't post anything, anywhere, unless you plan on losing ownership of it. I've removed my images and anything else which I want to maintain ownership of.

[edited by: eelixduppy at 2:49 am (utc) on Feb. 18, 2009]
[edit reason] no personal URLs, see TOS [/edit]

7:14 am on Feb 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

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A couple of weeks ago, we posted an update to our Terms of Use that we hoped would clarify some parts of it for our users. Over the past couple of days, we have received a lot of questions and comments about these updated terms and what they mean for people and their information. Because of the feedback we received, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

Emphasis mine. That's an atypical breath of fresh air...

11:40 am on Feb 18, 2009 (gmt 0)


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citation for quote above:
Facebook ¦ Update on Terms [blog.facebook.com]
7:02 pm on Feb 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Wow. Maybe they'll take the time to actually hash out REASONABLE terms that are not just boilerplate lawyer-speak. Obviously, lawyers will still be heavily involved but if they could do this it would engender a lot of good will I think. It would also set a good precedent.
10:14 pm on Feb 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I am not sure that Zuckerberg's comparison to email data and Facebook data is actually fair, or even legally correct.

In an email system, as far as I know, we always retain ownership of our emails, but the serving party has a restricted right to read this emails (automatically for ads, or upon request for legal reasons)

But I am definitely sure that if I write an novel and email it, even though gmail, I retain all copyrights and ownership of the novel, even if it a body of the email.

Now, in flickr, I believe you also keep ownership of your uploads, otherwise you wouldn't be able to set the copyright yourself (to control copyright, you need to be the owner)

I also believe that if you close a flickr account, they delete your photos (or at least should otherwise you could argue in front of a judge that it is illegal)

If you remove a gmail account, I wouldn't be surprised in the emails are erased also.

The idea is that:
because you share media you own on a specific platform, that does not mean that you transfer your ownership to the platform on which your media is presented UNLESS

unless it clearly says in the TOS that you give away all right to your material.

I have never read the TOS of Facebook, but if they maintain that you MAINTAIN ownership of your private data, than, if your account is closed, all your data should be deleted.

Unless, that's like saying that if a painter puts up a painting in a gallery, it becomes theirs.

Gimme me a break Zuckerberg.

What a clown

[edited by: Hugene at 10:28 pm (utc) on Feb. 19, 2009]


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