Facebook Owns Me, Maybe…

circle-of-friends

OK, with the blogosphere going totally nuts about the new Facebook Terms of Service, I thought I would chime in.  First of all, let me catch everyone up.  Recently Facebook updated their Terms of Service (TOS) and here is the part of the new terms that is causing the rift;

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.

So, what does all this mean.  The common interpretation is that Facebook owns whatever you post on their site.  Another wrinkle is they own it even after you leave Facebook.

This change in terms has cause numerous groups to be created with the purpose of demanding change, deleting accounts and more (please note to access the previous links you will need to log into Facebook and by doing so you will need to agree to their Terms of Service :) .)  That combined with the numerous blogs (including this one) talking about the subject has lead to an explosion of information and misinformation.

So what does the fearless leader of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg have to say about all this?  Yesterday he posted a lengthy blog post on the Facebook blog.  In order to be fair, I have included without edit, in it’s entirety, Mark’s blog post below;

On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information

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.

We still have work to do to communicate more clearly about these issues, and our terms are one example of this. Our philosophy that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant. A lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you. Over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler.

Still, the interesting thing about this change in our terms is that it highlights the importance of these issues and their complexity. People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.

We’re at an interesting point in the development of the open online world where these issues are being worked out. It’s difficult terrain to navigate and we’re going to make some missteps, but as the leading service for sharing information we take these issues and our responsibility to help resolve them very seriously. This is a big focus for us this year, and I’ll post some more thoughts on openness and these other issues soon.

So there you have it.  The founder of Facebook says they need to own the material to share it properly and they need to own it forever, just in case there is a copy of it in an email or elsewhere on Facebook.  Ok so, the question is…do you buy it?

Every web site has its own Terms of Service and quite frankly, some you are probably using today are much more onerous than Facebook’s.  It’s just that Facebook is sooo big and sooo popular that it receives huge notoriety for each movement it makes.  But does that reasoning give Facebook a pass?  I don’t think so.  As one of the nets largest communities they have a responsibility to keep our information safe and secure, they never should take advantage of us and use caution as they exploit us (yes, exploit us…data mining at Facebook is huge biz in the ad world.)

I produce allot of new media; podcasts, videos, cartoons, audio books, etc… and allot of links to that new media are on Facebook.  Quite frankly, some of that may come down over time or not go up in the first place.  I will have to look at each thing I do and the purpose and decide what is best.  What is at issue is the fact that I have to do that.  I guess on some level I am offended that I need to think through the long term ramifications of placing the media on Facebook, yet at the same time, I understand the legal need for Terms of Service.  Can I have my cake and eat it too?  Is that even possible?

I guess the option of deleting an account is always there but to do so, you need to log into Facebook and by doing so you are agreeing to the Terms of Service and the terms do say that by agreeing to these terms you are granting a perpetual license to Facebook to use your materials…hmmm.  People used to say “do you have a MySpace?” and now the popular term is “do you have a Facebook?”, I wonder what the next catch phrase will be?  Somehow I am guessing it gets here soon.  Maybe it will be “do you still have a Facebook?”

5 Responses

  1. Karen KFC Blanchette Says:

    Thank you for this “in a nut shell” explanation and information sharing. I am sooo busy with running SkydiverGirls.TV that keeping up on all of this can be a real challenge and while I’m somewhat annoyed that I have to now go and figure out what all this FB terms thing is about, I’m thankful I can come to your site and get the info I need quickly & easily.
    You’re adding value.. Thanks!

    KFC :-)

  2. admin Says:

    Thank you Karen for the kind comments, I am a big fan of your site (love the PodShow alumni ;)!) Yesterday I spent allot of time looking into this issue as I saw concerning comments regarding the Facebook TOS popping us. I figured all that time would be a good post, if I cared, I thought others may care also. Again, thank you for your kind comments.

    Mark

  3. coffee Says:

    the fact that Facebook change their TOS back so quickly is an indication that they knew they were wrong in the first place

  4. Mary Says:

    Could you tell me where you got the graphic with the circle of 10 blue “people” with the one in a bull’s eye. It is perfect for a project I am working on, but don’t want to violate amyone’s copyright….thanks!

  5. MB Says:

    I subscribe to a graphic site called Animation Factory. They allow use with subscription. That is where I got that graphic.

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