If you aren’t already, you might want to be extra careful about what you post on Facebook. The site recently revised some critical words in their terms of service agreement which some claim allows them to use your pictures, videos, updates, or whatever else you post on the social network however they want to, for as long as they want to, even if you delete your profile.
UPDATE: Mark Zuckerberg wrote a response to the terms of service concerns on the Facebook blog to clarify the changes. He wrote that Facebook needs a license to use the information you post on your profile to share with your friends. True. And if you delete your profile, your friend should still be able to see the messages you sent them. “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,” he wrote.
But what about all that other information? Will it be shared outside of our networks? Well, he dances around the subject:
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.
Consumerist points out that most of the agreement had stayed the same:
But the new version removes an important couple of lines at the end of that section:
Furthermore, the “Termination” section near the end of the TOS states:
J.F. Quackenbush at WetAsphalt.com calms the flames by noting an an important line to consider:
You are only granting those rights “on or in connection with the Facebook Service or in the promotion thereof.” What does that mean? Well, it means that you are licensing the use on Facebook branded websites or any other media and the Facebook Platform, which is the legal name for the APIs that allow third parties to create Facebook applications. So if there was a Facebook TV show, they could use your stuff on that. Or if they launched a Facebook concert series or a Facebook magazine, they could use your stuff in that. Presumably, if there were a Facebook dogfood, they could use your content on that. Or if they wanted to make an advertisement FOR any of those things, they could use your stuff in that. Precisely WHY Facebook would want to do any of those things, I leave to the reader to speculate on. What they most emphatically CAN’T do is what Walters claims, that “We can do anything we want with your content forever.” They can do anything they want with your content ON Facebook or to Promote Facebook forever.
Especially compared to other terms of service, according to New York University’s digital cirriculum specialist Amanda French. She rounded up other social media networks’ terms on her site, adding: “This one kills me: Facebook claims it can do whatever it wants with your content if you put a Share on Facebook link on your web page. Unbelievable–and unique, as far as I can tell. People can post links in Facebook to your content just by copying and pasting the URL, but if you want to save them a few keystrokes by putting a link or a widget on your site, Facebook claims that you’ve granted them a whole mess of rights. Count me out.”
Should you delete your Facebook profile too? Maybe not. The important thing to remember about Facebook is this: They’re not just there to play nice and let you share your every photo, note or status update with your friends. They are a business trying to create new money-making models with all of your information. So go ahead, have fun. But don’t be fooled into thinking you can keep everything private and your content is yours and yours alone. And if you’re really going to delete your profile in a huff, consider getting an internet drop from drop.io to share your info. instead.
Correction appended: J.F. Quackenbush’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.