Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Facebook backs down [Updated]

Mark ZuckerburgEver since Colleen Lindsay's blog gave me the heads up, I've been following the Facebook saga with some interest.

For those of you who aren't in the loop, Facebook quietly changed its Terms of Service (TOS) a couple of weeks ago, and basically granted themselves full rights in perpetuity to anything you post on Facebook. In theory, that means they could lift any of your content - photos, poems, your name, your essays - and use them in any way they saw fit. It even sounded like they wanted in on anything you linked to that streamed in from another website. (Not too sure about that - that's my amateur reading of the legalese.)

Mark Zuckerberg must have been shocked by the uproar. Several Facebook groups opposing the new TOS sprang into existence, and the major media took an active interest also. Zuckerberg's claims that Facebook would never do anything nasty with your data, that they just wanted to make formal the fact that even if you delete your account, your pictures and such will still be kicking around your friends' pages for a while. In essence, "trust us, no matter what it says, we won't really use it." This made a lot of people legitimately nervous, particularly anybody doing creative work. We're not too keen on granting rights to Facebook - in perpetuity no less - for our fiction, our music, our artwork, our photography.

The ruckus was loud and global and Zuckerberg caved. He went back to the old TOS. I, for one, am not so sure I want to reinstate my blog feed on Facebook. I've only ever posted one piece of flash fiction here, but it's the principle of the thing. I'm going to double-check my privacy settings there too.

I sure hope Blogger isn't next. Are you re-evaluating your online practices as a result of the recent brouhaha? Or have you always been ultra-careful?

[Update] And here is a wonderful link that explains Facebook privacy settings and how to customize them.

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Janna Qualman said...

Yes! I am so pleased with the outcome.

Janet said...

Well, I think he should take a look at the language in the Blogger TOS. They make it very clear that their only rights are within the context of providing their services. Facebook needs to go that route.

Melanie Avila said...

You just reminded me that I want to double check my privacy settings on a few things. I did switch my overall settings last week, but it's never a bad thing to be careful.

Razib Ahmed said...

“I sure hope Blogger isn't next. Are you re-evaluating your online practices as a result of the recent brouhaha? Or have you always been ultra-careful?”

I also hope that Blogger would not do it. Google has developed its business model on a different way. Google encourages people like me to create content and earn money with the blogs in Blogger/Blogspot. On the other hand, I can hardly see any business model for Facebook except trying to sell the content of users.
I am very happy that I do not have any Facebook account. I have always tried to be ultra careful about my privacy.

Janet said...

Razib, so far, so good. Blogger's TOS include this:

Your Intellectual Property Rights. Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services. Google furthermore reserves the right to refuse to accept, post, display or transmit any Content in its sole discretion.

Why Facebook can't just put a paragraph like this in their own TOS totally escapes me. As for their business model, with the number of tacky ads all over their pages, I don't think they need to sell content.


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