Facebook Me? No Way!

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I have two friends who have been bugging me to join Facebook. They act like it is the social innovation of, well forever, but despite their obvious love for it I just can’t see what the big deal is. Maybe it’s because I blog and don’t need that outlet. Or maybe I am just being anti-social.  But whatever my specific reason, the general idea of posting personal photos and facts on the Internet just didn’t seem like a good idea, even if you could limit access to “friends.”

And after reading this, it looks like I had good reason to be cautious.

Once a Facebook member, always a member.

The Consumerist blog noticed Sunday that the social-networking giant had quietly made a change to its user Terms of Service (TOS) on Feb. 4.

Facebook now declares that it has a perpetual license to use anything you post to your own Facebook page — even if you terminate your account.

Here’s the licensing part of the legalese, which sounds bad enough:

“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.”

In other words, while it doesn’t actually own your photos, scribblings and status updates — you do — Facebook can do whatever it wants with it, whenever it wants, in order to promote itself or create or sell ads.

Theoretically, it can even “license” a picture of your kids for use in a third party’s ad campaign.

Most of that has been part of the Facebook Terms of Service for a while. After all, without user-generated content, Facebook would be nothing.

What’s been removed is this: “If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however (sic) you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.”

And what’s been added is this: “The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service” — after which follows a list of most of the sections on the Terms of Service page.

So even if you decide Facebook isn’t for you, the site can still use anything you posted. It’s all been archived.

“I’m done with Facebook,” declared blogger Ed Champion upon learning of the TOS changes.

He seemed more annoyed at the older blanket license than the new never-say-die part of the legalese — ironic considering that if he’d deleted his account before Feb. 4 his account really would have been gone for good.

A Facebook representative told the Chicago Tribune that the Web site would soon issue a response to Consumerist’s posting.

Many Facebook members are no doubt eagerly awaiting that response.

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19 Comments

  1. For me – it’s somehow embarrassing to use the same networking site my kids do. I’ll pass.

  2. I have a facebook account, but I never update it and I only have 11 friends… I can’t bring myself to cancel it because every time I try a little sign pops up that says “If you cancel so-and-so will miss you” and they have pics of my friends on there… so the Catholic guilt in me keeps the damn thing on… even though my friends think I am obviously dead since I never visit.

    sigh.

  3. I joined only because I kept getting invitations from friends and family members to be their “friends” on FB. I’m not happy about that legalese, and I wonder what would happen if it were taken to the courts. Well, that would depend on the judge, wouldn’t it? But I’m betting that, in order to enforce their new terms, they should have provided a notice to every registered user. Of course, they probably would have lost a lot of them, that way.

  4. I, of course, meant that they should have provided notice *in advance.” Even if they had emblazoned it across the screen for every user to see on February 4 (if that was the effective date), or sent it to every e-mail account registered, it would have been too late for anyone to get out from under it.

    I just have troube believing it’s legal and enforceable. I could be wrong.

  5. Oh. SHIT!!!

  6. You don’t post personal photos or info now, why would FB be any different?

  7. Because the whole idea of FB is to post photos and info, isn’t it? An FB account without anything it is is just empty.

  8. About Facebook Security (Source):
    http://www.allfacebook.com/2009/02/facebook-privacy/

    “The best way to prevent embarrassing items from showing up on Facebook in the future is to not make bad judgements in your personal life……”

    ‘Nuf said!

  9. FB is for social networking–something people used to do in person, over lunch, dinner, a drink, a football game, at the beauty shop, etc. Now we have to have websites that allow us to connect with other people? Granted, it is difficult to get together with a family member or friend who lives several hundred, or a couple thousand, miles away. We used to connect with them by telephone. Then we got the Internet with e-mail, but that still isn’t good enough; we now “need” MySpace (which I *really* hated!), FB, GoogleGroups, YahooGroups…what am I leaving out?

    I called one of my oldest and dearest friends, tonight. It was great to talk to her, short as the conversation was.

  10. The point isn’t embarrassing photos or items, the point is they can use your images and other information – no matter how innocent – for their own profit and use. You have no right to stop them since you gave up ownership to them by agreeing to the TOS.

  11. Exactly. And the exec’ who was trying to soft-sell it yesterday, this morning, or whenever, can talk all he wants about how they really haven’t changed their policy, the consumer still owns everything the person enters, and FB isn’t going to misuse anything. He can claim “Oh, we don’t really mean it; the language is just too formal.” He can back-pedal all he wants to the media, but the language is still there. In order to find out if it’s enforceable, someone, or a lot of someones, would have to sue FB for unauthorized use or misuse of photos or information, and leave it to the courts. Barring that, unless the public reaction is negative enough to force them to take out that language and re-insert the old, they have the legal freedom to do exactly what their Terms now say.

  12. It makes no sense that Facebook would risk messing up a good thing by edging in on people’s intellectual property. They had people’s trust and then they go and risk losing it; not smart.

  13. They’ve repented; they put up a notice one morning saying they had gone back to the original language.

  14. Its July 2009, does facebook still OWN anything a user posts?

    • I’m not sure but I believe they changed their mind.

  15. Sigh. I can see my comments are highly valued! Look just above Cool dude’s question of June 14….

    • Sorry, I missed it, but what I meant to say was that they SAY the repented but I still think we’re taking our chances.

  16. Oops. Hit Enter too soon.

    Often, when I’m looking at someone else’s profile, I shake my head at how much personal information they’ve shared. Seems like just about everything except their SSN and driver’s license numbers.


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