Facebook Terms

Whew! Talk about a kerfuffle.

Facebook changed their terms about two weeks ago, the main gist of which was that Facebook could retain access to, and licence some of your user content, even if you have deleted your account. This upset quite a lot of people, who were working on the principle that their content was, well, theirs, and they ought to have the right to say what Facebook could do with it, and when.

The intention seems to have been that if you create an account, use it to post on someone else’s wall, or in a group somewhere, that you cannot expect these bits of content to be automatically removed when your content is removed — presumably because of the potential for completely buggering up the context for what people have posted after.

However, it didn’t come across like this. It came across as “you post your stuff on Facebook, Facebook has a right to use it forever, irrespective of what you say”. Not surprising therefore that this was a public relations nightmare.

Mark Zuckerberg’s blog post read:

In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want.Mark Zuckerberg blog

The main problem with this is that the terms use legalese to discuss granting a licence and suchlike, and are presumably expected to be binding. You cannot therefore assuage people’s fears by telling them that irrespective of what powers you are actually getting, you will only use them in a way that they would like. I would suggest that anyone who is entirely comfortable with handing over their rights and trusting people grants me power of attorney over their affairs. Trust me.

So there was a big kerfuffle, and when the dust had settled somewhat, Facebook temporarily reverted to their original terms. It’s important to note that this is temporary. It’s also interesting to note that this has been described with language such as “forced into U-turn” and “made to back down” where the equally appropriate but more positively-phrased “shows they will listen to concerned users” would presumably apply.

Indeed, they have actually set up a Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities group to encourage users to contribute to what they feel Facebook’s terms should be. A jolly good idea, even if some of those ideas puts forward “stop all advertising” are a non-starter.

Similarly, I’ve seen people complaining that other people are swearing on twitter and this shouldn’t be allowed, despite the rather obvious solution of well don’t follow them, then. Fuckheads. Whoops.

The complete non-starter idea that I would propose for this sort of thing wud B 2 stp txt spk thx. It really gets on my bleeding nerves. Although I am aware that by admitting this (knowing the ‘friends’ I have) that I have just created a rod for my own back.

Joking aside though, the idea that users can contribute towards the Facebook terms is a good idea. The balance has to be struck between what is reasonable — for example, unless Facebook are allowed to use your content, it’s hard to share it with other people — and what gives away too much information. But if you are using Facebook, you have an opportunity to contribute. Don’t waste it.

And while you’re on, watch your privacy on there. Just because you think you’ve got your privacy settings correct doesn’t mean that they are always going to be secure. Facebook are just as capable of data security breaches as anyone else.

…although given the frequency with which unencrypted personal data seems to be left on the bus / sent to the wrong person (did I ever mention that quite a considerable time ago I was once on the mailing list of an MP’s researcher for about three weeks before I finally figured out that she’d confused me with someone else and I probably shouldn’t have been being sent details about the MP’s appointments and suchlike?) I am tempted to think that the best security against ID fraud is the fact that the fraudsters will have so many details to work through before they get to yours.

Of course, that’s rather flippant and not a serious protection against ID fraud. We ought to be careful, and most of us — including me — probably aren’t as careful as we should be, particularly in regards to the information we make available online.

3 Responses to “Facebook Terms”

  1. chartroose responds:

    This makes me even more grateful that I don’t use Facebook! Jayzus!

    And Jackie dude, THIS is hilarious: “…I’ve seen people complaining that other people are swearing on twitter and this shouldn’t be allowed, despite the rather obvious solution of well don’t follow them, then. Fuckheads. Whoops.”

    Thanks for making me snort my Pepsi into my nose when I read this (ouch).

  2. JackP responds:

    Ah, we’ll get you in the end you know, Chartroose. Might as well join now while it’s still optional before it becomes mandatory…

  3. Christophe Strobbe responds:

    Facebook’s terms of use say that if there are changes to the terms of use, they “will post the changes to these Terms of Use on this page and will indicate at the top of this page the date these terms were last revised”. If you check the terms of use of some other social networking sites, you may find that they won’t do even that.

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