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Facebook Scrambles To Contain ToS Fallout 409

Posted by kdawson
from the all-your-content dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Anger over Facebook's ToS update has forced the company to scramble. Yesterday, a spokesman released a statement that said Facebook has never 'claimed ownership of material that users upload,' and is trying to be more open to users about how their data is being handled. Mark Zuckerberg has also weighed in, stating 'we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want.' Facebook members are skeptical, however — protests have sprung up on blogs, message boards, and a new Facebook group called 'People Against the new Terms of Service' that has added more than 10,000 members today."
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Facebook Scrambles To Contain ToS Fallout

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  • by Scutter (18425) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:57PM (#26898101) Journal

    As long as they promised, there's nothing to worry about, right?

    • by DanWS6 (1248650) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:04AM (#26898165)
      Yeah, I for one would trust Mark Zuckerberg completely.



      I couldn't even type that with a straight face. lol.
    • by Bieeanda (961632) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:09AM (#26898195)
      Absolutely, especially after they proved themselves during the Beacon fiasco. Proved that they can't be trusted not to stab with one hand while they stroke with another, that is.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:21AM (#26899111) Journal

        Proved that they can't be trusted not to stab with one hand while they stroke with another, that is.

        I don't understand why they even bothered with that blog posting.
        Nothing he said contradicts the new TOS and his post generally boils down to:
        "trust us not to enforce the plain language of the TOS."

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:20AM (#26899661)

          Looks like the blog was taken down. Here it is in full (Google cache still has it stored):

          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.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Nursie (632944)

            "We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. "

            Which is exactly what I've been saying since this whole thing kicked off. What's the big fuss about? It's an old-style homepage and email through a different interface.

            We were doing this in the early 90s.

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:15AM (#26898229)

      I'm going to protest Best Buy by going in and buying stuff! That'll show them!

      When are people going to learn to 'protest' facebook by not using facebook?

      • by at_slashdot (674436) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:37AM (#26898399)

        The problem is that people already use Facebook and they are invested in it (they have friends, pictures, etc) and this is a change in TOS that you can't refuse, if you just leave Facebook the TOS says (from what I understand) that they have control over your info... so what use to leave now?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:37AM (#26898401)
        There's a problem: there is no serious competitor (yet) and network effects make switching to a different social network difficult. The real fix is to use some sort of open / distributed social networking system (so it is more like e-mail/Jabber), but I do not know of any real solution in that area. A large part of the problem is that Facebook handles networks (groups based on school/company/location) as part of its privacy controls and it is hard to replicate that.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Stand by for Google's new product: Goobook. Would you believe it's called Bookle? No? Well, ok, maybe not - but this *is* a real business opportunity for somebody that has more than a theoretical familiarity with ethical business practices to make Facebook's future a little less certain (no, not you, MSN - I said *ETHICAL* business practices).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GigaplexNZ (1233886)
          Or perhaps they might pick a random name out of a hat and come up with something along the lines of "Orkut".
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by HartDev (1155203)
        Yeah...In my Economic History class, when talking about the Boston Tea Party it says that "American have learned a new and powerful economic tool...the boycott" Come to think of it now a days, we are so un-disciplined that boycott is not only un-likely....but completely impossible in the majority of minds out there. And if someone is rather strong will or minded, they are still talking to people instead of screens.
      • by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:09AM (#26898625)

        I move to create a Boycott Facebook group on facebook.

        I'd go start one up right now, but I don't have a facebook account, seeing as I'm boycotting it.

      • by squidinkcalligraphy (558677) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:18AM (#26898703)

        This sums up all that's wrong about facebook 'protest' groups and 'causes'. You join a cause, then get a warm and fuzzy feeling that you've actually done something. YOU HAVE NOT DONE ANYTHING APART FROM CLICKING THE MOUSE! It's even more useless than email petitions. Want to make a difference? Write a letter to your politician, go to a protest, start a boycott, strike, blockade, start a campaign group, talk to people in the street, stand on a soapbox, fuck some shit up. But it's gonna take a hell of a lot more effort than joining a facebook group.

        • by omglolbah (731566) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @03:11AM (#26899353)

          Well, in Norway at least facebook groups do kick up a lot of dust and gets journalists interested in various causes.. Then politicians notice that someone actually care and they have to care :-p

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Overzeetop (214511)

          Really? It's made national news outlets, /. (big deal), and has Facebook management scrambling to find a solution.

          Organization is just a first step. Facebook is a tool (as in "something useful", not "male genitalia"). It's a very useful tool for those of us with friends a relatives scattered around the world. The way to bring about change without causing grief to both sides is to start a dialog. This is the first step. Next are threats. After that is termination. Ideally, before termination, part of the t

    • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:08AM (#26898617)

      Reuters reports that Facebook executives were seen at a press conference pinky swearing, and gave the additional statement of "No takesie-backsies."

  • Serves you right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:01AM (#26898129)

    Its enormously popular, and (to some) provides a lot of value... and its free. What did you THINK they were going to do with the info you have up there ? It's a massive social engineering/data mining study, and you're taking part in it.

    • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:21AM (#26898271)

      I only use myspace, gmail + other google services, LinkedIn, and twitter. They certainly don't fit your description, so I'm good.

    • Its enormously popular, and (to some) provides a lot of value... and its free. What did you THINK they were going to do with the info you have up there ? It's a massive social engineering/data mining study, and you're taking part in it.

      I'm not sure that it's as well thought out as you might believe...

    • by Jim Robinson Jr. (853390) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:57AM (#26898531)

      Agreed. Someone went to a lot of effort, and spends a huge stack of cash every month to keep FB operating and providing those free services. Very little in life is truly free... and this is no different.

      They provide us with an entertaining and occasionally useful service without any cash changing hands, but that doesn't mean there isn't a cost involved.

      Don't like that they can re-use your "private" data? Don't post it. Want to post it? Regardless of whether your talking about Facebook, some other social site, or even just old-fashioned web pages, as soon as you post it... it's publicly available and there is nothing you can really do to prevent it.

      My advice to FB users (that includes me) is to use the same common sense you should be using everywhere: don't post something your mother couldn't read. It's corny, but that perspective could keep a lot of people out of trouble.

      If you really want something private, don't use a public social site to post it. There are plenty of web hosting companies to choose from, and for just a few dollars every month you can have space for a web page and stored files. Just find a secured template... and remember that nothing is ever - EVER - truly secure if it is publicly accessible.

      Cheers, and happy Facebooking!

      Jim

  • by strredwolf (532) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:02AM (#26898137) Homepage Journal

    Facebook Privacy Change Sparks Federal Complaint [yahoo.com]

    For those who don't like long reads: Promises aren't enough. EPIC wants it reversed, and is filling a Federal Trade Commission complaint.

    • Here's hoping for an EPIC win.

    • by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:28AM (#26898777)

      What most people don't seem to realize is that their original TOS wasn't too hot to begin with as it were. It's not so much that the conditions under their TOS are unusual, but more that it offers no consideration for the kind of data that the TOS covers.

      If Youtube claims an automatic all-use license for content uploaded onto their servers, it's not that big a deal, as all it has are videos. If Flickr did the same, it's a little worse, but still not that big a deal as all they really have are pictures and some comments.

      But Facebook contains a huge amount of personal information--and they are as anal in keeping information as a wiki--some of which may be protected by privacy laws. Even if AOL said they keep all logs of all conversations that go through AIM and can use it for whatever purpose they like, there isn't nearly as much personally identifiable information as there is on Facebook, and that and more was effectively what Facebook's original TOS entailed. Such a TOS on their part is irresponsible at best, and criminal at worst.

  • An echo chamber... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ihatewinXP (638000) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:07AM (#26898185)

    Dont we have this discussion about once a year?

    I remember the exact same thing going down with Flikr, Myspace, Youtube... Of course I dont agree with the wording and implications of the new TOS but can anyone point me to an example where any of these sites have commandeered content and used it nefariously? Microsoft maybe once?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gurps_npc (621217)
      Tons of unethical companies do it all the time. Have you heard of spyware? That is basically what they do. They use the same TOS statements to get away with this kind of thing.

      When you are not a criminal, you don't need criminal tools. We don't let the super of a building keep bump keys, even if it is convenient for him. Instead he has to request and receive a copy of each resident's key if they allow it.

      The online community has to learn that NO, you can't just do what you want. If you want a cont

      • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:11AM (#26898651)

        The online community has to learn that NO, you can't just do what you want. If you want a contract to be valid, then the other guy has to agree to it. The worse your contract, the fewer people will agree. If you worsen the TOS, then some of your people will leave you.

        The problem is that they effectively said even if you leave, they're going to do it anyway. That's like your landlord still charging you rent after you've already been moved out for a few month - and he amended the lease without your explicit permission.

    • by Temujin_12 (832986) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:40AM (#26898877)

      Suppose you have a long history of posts covering a particular topic with a large following of readers. You decide to compile them into a book and get it published. If it becomes popular (read: profitable) enough, you bet Facebook will pull the ToC out, dust if off, and demand at least a portion of the profits.

      The reason you don't see the implications of this very often is there's usually no money in claiming ownership to material posted. But you'd better believe that once there's money in it, Facebook (or whoever else has this kind of ToC) will enforce it with teams of lawyers.

      (the book example is just one example of how this could happen... there could be many more)

      • by ihatewinXP (638000) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @03:14AM (#26899375)

        What?

        In your scenario someone posts excerpts of a book they are writing online, say as a series of notes on Facebook, then after this book is published Facebook Lawyers® are going to 1. hunt down a user and then 2. sue them in open court for a share of the profits?

        Im sorry but im still not buying these hypothetical situations. Can we pin down anyone actually ever getting screwed by this (be it FB, Myspace, Youtube, Flikr, Whatevr)? I mean this is capitalism - saying "once there is money in ripping people off it will happen" doesnt cut it - lets see it actually happen.

  • This is nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alvinrod (889928) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:08AM (#26898191)

    This isn't anything new. I used to use facebook somewhat and posted a few things to it until I caught wind of their TOS. They essential claimed at least partial ownership of anything posted to their site at the time and I didn't feel as though it was a fair shake. I essentially stopped using it at that point.

    My account is still active and every few months I check it and add anyone that I'd care to have contact information for. Essentially it's a glorified rolodex for me, with the added bonus that other people can find me. Personally, if I wanted to talk with someone I'd rather call them up and have a cup of coffee or a meal instead of sending little messages back and forth. Technology is a fairly big part of my life. I work with it, play with it, and use it for research. I don't really feel it should be a big part of my social life, however.

    Maybe I'm just a luddite in that regard, but I prefer face to face meetings over anything else that we've developed over the last hundred years.

    • by Techman83 (949264)
      I second that, I am in the same boat. I spend my professional life sitting in front of a screen, now whilst I do have personal projects I work on at home, my entire social life is about getting out of the house and hanging with my friends. Personally I'd rather have a few close friends then 1000 people "I know". For those that I can't visit in person, I still spend time on the phone to them.
    • by Zwicky (702757) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:09AM (#26898627)

      I'm probably going to sound like a complete prig here but anyway...

      I don't have, nor have I ever had, a Facebook account. However I have regularly seen a friend's account when I've been at his place and as we grew up together I'd say it is representative of what I would have to endure.

      I have found that all the people who find and friend (or whatever is the trendy not-really-a-verb term they use) him are those I - and often he also - only ever knew in passing.

      Believe it or not I'm actually quite a friendly person and get on with pretty much anyone who cares to sit down and talk to me. (I recently went alone on a two week vacation where this trait was borne out but that's another story). The thing is, these people often didn't want to know me back then and for some reason they now get it into their heads that being chummy online and sending piddling messages around is somehow OK.

      To be frank I have no interest in 're-'hooking up with these people. I don't find them very interesting to be honest. Their statuses all echo the current 'joke' that is being flushed around the tubes and what they are doing doesn't actually interest me at bit.

      The thing I find really amusing is that the protest group is using the very tool they are protesting against to stage the protest! This is precisely what I would expect from the people I've seen on there.

      The fact is that there are many people out there who do not seriously consider what happens to their data. Just as with real life: that I know people who do not shred bank statements is one example; they just throw in the trash all sorts of identifying data without a second thought. They just don't care, even after being informed of the potential dangers.

      Similarly folks signing up to Facebook don't generally want to let an inconvenience like statements in the terms and conditions keep them from their oh-so-important online life. I suspect it is this mentality that is behind those members who joined the protest group. They don't care enough to just walk away. Sure, it seems that superficially they may be having an effect, but I'd venture a guess that Facebook are merely doing damage control. They will still try and get away with as many of the contentious statements as they still can because they know that their users are reluctant to leave. That stacks the cards in their favor.

      (I do want to point out that obviously not everyone who has an account is an idiot - my friend for one is certainly not, nor I would say are my ex-colleagues who also had accounts - but it does tend to attract a certain shall we say, demographic.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KlaymenDK (713149)

        I'm probably going to sound like a complete prig here but anyway... I don't have, nor have I ever had, a Facebook account. However I have regularly seen a friend's account when I've been at his place and as we grew up together I'd say it is representative of what I would have to endure. [...] The thing is, these people often didn't want to know me back then [yet] being chummy online [now] is somehow OK. To be frank I have no interest in 're-'hooking up with these people.

        You're not the only one who feels that way (good to know I'm not alone, either). I think you make your point very well, and it does not come across as prudish or technophobic; just very sensible in a way that is becoming increasingly rare.

        (I do want to point out that obviously not everyone who has an account is an idiot - my friend for one is certainly not, nor I would say are my ex-colleagues who also had accounts - but it does tend to attract a certain shall we say, demographic.)

        Neither would I call most of my acquaintances "idiots". But I am, regrettably, honestly inclined to call the majority of them "sheep", in the sense of "if all your friends were to jump off of a bridge, would you, too?" (actually, if that were a real-life scenario, I'd take

  • by Lank (19922) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:09AM (#26898193)

    Here's a link to this group:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=77069107432 [facebook.com]

  • Seems like a nice ploy, what with all them angry, uppity nettards jumping to action in a flurry of group joins, posting and pageloads!

    Guess they've been taking notes from livejournal [cracked.com].

  • I really didn't care enough to keep it. If there is going to be some huge deal with the TOS and claims to anything I post. Eh I just deleted the account. Far simpler than waging war against some company.

    Vote with your feet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by saigo11 (1479715)
      You can never actually delete it; just deactivate it. That basically means all your info is still stored on their servers.
  • ...i've already committed digital seppuku. I'm done with these companies. How do you start as a cool project by some college CS dudes and end up as such douche bags?
    • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:49AM (#26898469)

      You posted a comment on slashdot, with your homepage set to techiehelplist.com, which a whois shows is registered to a Jamie B*****n with complete address in a state south of Idaho. It took less time to find that out than it took to type this comment. (If it's _not_ you, it's a pretty good start).

      I don't know how to commit digital seppuku myself, but I think you're doing it wrong ;-P

      (all in fun)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        Yep, I am fully aware that you can find my information. I'm from Utah, I rather like lesbian porn, I am pretty good at that stab-a-knife-blade-between-fingers game, and I once got my nose broken playing a game of ultimate frisbee.

        You make a good point, but I think you misunderstand mine (although I prolly didn't explain it well). My problem is that facebook thinks they own all your content and information. They can take pictures that YOU have in your gallery, and use them at any time, in any way they want t

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:09AM (#26898631) Homepage

        I did it with this [facebook.com].

        What's funny is the delete form now says:

        Deleting due to change in Terms of Service

        Are you deleting because you are concerned about Facebook's Terms of Service?

        This was a mistake that we have now corrected. You own the information you put on Facebook and you control what happens to it. We are sorry for the confusion.

        - The Facebook Team

  • and a new Facebook group called 'People Against the new Terms of Service' that has added more than 10,000 members today."

    There are enough "People Against [X]" (the New Layout; Christianity; Atheism; BlueBell Ice Cream; Rational Thought; etc etc) groups on Facebook to occupy someone for a lifetime. And every time one pops up and I am peppered with invitations from my friends to it or one of its dozens of identical groups with different spelling/grammatical errors in the name, I always have to laugh, bec
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @12:40AM (#26898425) Journal

    I yanked my photos off and I won't be putting up any more. Facebook is a reasonable place to stay in touch with friends as long as you have your privacy settings locked down, but other than that... forget it. Their backpedaling is just ridiculous. Want to make a statement? Then change the policy. Or give at least an opt-out for "No, I do not wish to grant Facebook any rights to my copyrighted materials". They can say "well, that's not really what we mean" all they want. The policy is pretty clear... post a photo or video on Facebook and they claim they can do whatever they want with it now and forever.

    This is a pretty reasonable review of the various policies of social media sites. http://amandafrench.net/2009/02/16/facebook-terms-of-service-compared/ [amandafrench.net]

    I'll continue to post my images to flickr (lower resolution of course)... but certainly not to Facebook any longer.

    -S

    • by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:26AM (#26898765) Homepage

      I yanked my photos off and I won't be putting up any more.

      Unfortunately. . .

      "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, 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. . .

      Too bad that Facebook claims it already owns your photos, now. You yanked them too late, and they're gonna sell them to the Weekly World News, and we'll all learn about how you met Bat Boy at some tranny bar in Hoboken while plotting your time-travel assassination of JFK.

  • God forbid anybody write their ToS in regular, everyday, guy-on-the-street English (or the local language of choice). If it weren't for all the legalese written by lawyers, for lawyers, that only a third lawyer could understand, this sort of crap wouldn't happen. Instead, you end up with pages and pages of babble that most people don't understand, and therefore won't bother to read. IANAL, but couldn't that be grounds to have the whole thing thrown out on the notion of "How can I competently agree to som

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      God forbid anybody write their ToS in regular, everyday, guy-on-the-street English (or the local language of choice). If it weren't for all the legalese written by lawyers, for lawyers, that only a third lawyer could understand, this sort of crap wouldn't happen.

      I don't entirely disagree, but it's worth noting that "legalese" is used because it is highly specific in a way that vernacular English simply is not. There are words, terms, and concepts only found in legalese that have highly precise definitions that help avoid gnarly court battles.

  • 62,000+ (Score:2, Informative)

    Wow, already past 62,000
  • by maj0rm0j0 (1480589) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:22AM (#26898735)
    I'm thinking this is the biggest reason for the ToS change. Rick Sanchez is on CNN every weekday between 3-4PM. Those of you that have seen his show knows that he takes questions from people on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. I posted a question on Rick Sanchez's facebook page and was watching the show and *BAM* there is my full name, picture, and question live and full screen on CNN. The question was answered by the 3rd most powerful congressman in America. I never received any notice that they were going to post it and I've been trying for days to get a copy of the episode for my own collection. Rick won't reply to my messages and I haven't been able to get a copy going the suggested route by CNN through a company that handles purchasing episodes for them. They won't reply either... Go figure.
  • by phr1 (211689) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:33AM (#26898825)
    to these damn companies anyway? Facebook, Myspace, Livejournal and all the rest of them. The whole thing gives me the willies. Much better to get plain old web hosting and pay for it and control it yourself. Anyone remember Facebook's "Beacon" program? It's one insidious scheme after another. After this TOS stuff, it will be something else.
  • by AaronLawrence (600990) * on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:36AM (#26898853)

    I'm reminded of a comment from a previous story, about how it takes strong leadership to manage company lawyers, who will otherwise go on a paranoid spree about their particular fears.

    These companies employ lawyers to produce contracts that excuse them any liability and grant them infinite rights "just in case", and then get very surprised when users actually take them seriously. "But we wouldn't really do that!"

    Clue: tell your lawyers what you ACTUALLY need and want, don't just let them fill in the gaps with their imaginations.

  • by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:48AM (#26898915)

    It now has the old behavior, though it retains the acknowledgement that archived copies may still exist on Facebook's servers (which is more than reasonable, just so they don't claim a license to use those archived copies for anything they please.)

    End of story for now.

    Though sooner or later they're going to abuse their monopoly in a substantial way. Oh well.

  • by Hordeking (1237940) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:14AM (#26899077)
    What happens to photos and videos that I already granted someone else an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers)?
  • So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ender_Wiggin (180793) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:17AM (#26899087)

    Am I the only one who read the article?

    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 createdâ"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.

    That makes sense to me.

  • Back to the old ToS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by frdmfghtr (603968) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:40AM (#26899211)

    It appears, on the surface, that the old ToS is back in effect; the ToS page is dated September 23, 2008. [facebook.com]

    It does bring to mind a new question. If you delete content and thus revoke Facebook's omnipotent rights to your now-deleted content, how does Facebook ensure that the content is no longer used by those sub-licensors? I can appreciate the need to spell out that Facebook is going to make copies of posted content as part of serving up Web pages, spreading server load, backups, etc., but how about not going any farther than that?

    Maybe if Facebook drops the terms that they claim the right to use posted content for other commercial purposes (in particular sub-licensing) I may consider giving it another try; but otherwise, forget it. The bright spot in all this is that it has (finally) awakened me to really read the ToS when setting up accounts on websites like this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by srjh (1316705)

      Apparently so, I just logged in and received this message:

      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

  • 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 createdâ"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.

    Except that Facebook is completely unlike email, because everything in under the control of a single company, in a single application. If I share something with a friend (and by "share" that means "make a status update" or "post a new public photo", not necessarily privately a one-to-one private exchange), Facebook does not make a separate copy of that information in their database for every single person that might read it, that is under that person's exclusive control. The data and sharing terms remain under Facebook's control at all times.

    So in the UK they should be terrified of the first person to issue a Data Protection Act request to stop processing personal information [ico.gov.uk] which, if a request were justified (e.g. "someone is stalking me, I need to be anonymous for a while"), could force Facebook to delete every piece of information linked to your account. For instance they would have to turn your name and every reference to your account into Account_Redacted1234, leaving status updates and historical information deleted or looking broken. They would probably also have to remove / blur any tagged photos to comply fully.

    If there is ever a channel for this kind of information editing to start happening, Facebook could be in trouble as soon as somebody starts a "this site sucks, and I'm going to get my information deleted!" movement. As a defence they are trying to retroactively write themselves blank cheques with people's personal data in ways that seem rushed and legally questionable in some parts of the world.

  • by AgTiger (458268) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @08:30AM (#26900687) Homepage

    I suspect this is merely a boilerplate change to cover the legal status of ownership/possession of the users' content on the backup media when accounts are deleted. The new terms were quite poor, because they were too broad and vague in what they permitted the company to do, the users interpreted this is the worst possible light, and we have the situation you now see. (It is important to note that the users were not incorrect to interpret the terms in the worst possible light! One should always look at worst-case interpretations of a legal contract.)

    The old terms were likely insufficient, and placed the company at risk of a lawsuit for retaining data (on any media, in any form) that the user had deleted. In reality, it is not feasible to search out all copies of a user's content on all live and backup media to over-write it if they delete their account.

    By taking ownership in perpetuity, the company mitigates any legal risk from maintaining backups, and the old backup data could be destroyed over time through the process of backup media destruction or re-use in another backup process.

    Now the lawyers will have to revisit the boilerplate language, remove it, and craft a new legal framework to cover this situation with much more in the way of specifics (maximum length of data retention, method of data destruction, possibilities for restoration before the maximum time elapses, liability of the company toward the user if the obligation for deletion is not met by the maximum stated time, etc...etc...)

    This is how terms-of-service documents get so long and unwieldy, folks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Culture20 (968837)
      This wasn't about storing backups (unless the lawyer who wrote it was misinformed about what they needed to have to give backup tapes to an armored car company):
      When I kennel your dog, I don't give you a reasonable ToS at the beginning of your vacation, then silently change the ToS two days later to read "you grant irrevocable, perpetual license to sublicense this license, breed your dog, alter your dogs' puppies genetic codes, rent your dog to a movie-studio for a non-PETA approved stunt, clone your dog,
  • by oogoliegoogolie (635356) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @09:38AM (#26901059)

    " protests have sprung up on blogs, message boards, and a new Facebook group called 'People Against the new Terms of Service'"

    Ya that'll show them. All Facebook has to do is wait a couple weeks until the backlash dies down. By that time all of these protesters will have resumed their normal Facebook addiction.
    Out of all these protesters, how many will actually voice their dissatisfaction by actually canceling or ceasing their use of Facebook? 1%? Maybe 2%?

  • Why is it so hard? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sherriw (794536) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @09:52AM (#26901181)

    Why is it so hard for these companies like Google and Facebook, to maintain a non-sleezy TOS? It seems like they start out good- user-oriented when they're small, but as they grow they just start to say screw the user, we need to make money.

    I like Plaxo.com's terms of service and privacy policy. They don't seem to have trouble outlining a policy for this situation:

    "Changes to Your Information are typically executed immediately. For example, if you terminate your Plaxo account, your account immediately becomes inaccessible and all Your Information within your account is completely removed from the Plaxo servers. Please remember that if you have shared Your Information with other Members, they may retain such shared information in their accounts notwithstanding your decision to terminate your Plaxo account."

    • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @10:22AM (#26901463)
      They start out as a couple guys in a dorm room with a parent's lawyer. When the company gets big enough, the family lawyer _might_ get hired on to oversee a team of corporate lawyers. It's the corporate lawyers, talking to people other than the C?O's who bring in the crazy licenses.

We can predict everything, except the future.

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