The Facebook Screw (Updated)

Here’s a post by popular demand – Seriously, I have received emails about this from about half of the people I know.

facebook screw

Here is a rough translation of Facebook’s new terms of service:

They own everything you ever post, can do whatever they want with it, wherever they want, at any point in time between now and when our Sun goes supernova, an asteroid destroys us, or our galaxy gets TKOed by the Andromeda Galaxy. There is nothing that you can do about it unless Facebook changes their terms of service on their own. Canceling your account does not cancel the terms of agreement either.

If you have had your account for a while and agreed to a terms of service way-back you may be wondering why you weren’t given an opportunity to review their new terms of service and either accept and retain the account, or reject it and remove it for good.

I know I am.

If presented with such an option I probably would have retained the account. Facebook is a key communications tool for me, so I might have kept it in spite of these insane changes. At least I would have felt some manner of ownership over the decision. Instead they just forced it down my throat and didn’t even bother to send me a note explaining the change. It’s pretty screwed-up.

What will Facebook do with all of our data?

Probably mine it and sell it to marketers. It is the only option that makes sense.

The only content on there that I have a big problem with them retaining permanent ownership of are my photos, but I don’t really think they are going to do much with my New Years Eve photos, or my spectacular (if I do say so myself) photos of Zion National Park. It’s the principle of privacy and ownership of my own data that matters most to me.

This kind of bullshit is what will make-way for the next generation of web services. Services that recognize that we are web users, not web consumers. That we are the ones creating the content and we are not going to be abused.

Here’s how I think this is going to end:

Facebook will have to backdown. Most other sites terminate ownership of content when the user deletes the account. Facebook will revert to that model because this has become a really big scandal. They attempted to do some damage control and it clearly fell flat. There only option is to bend to the wishes of their users. If they don’t they will do more irreparable harm to their relationship with their users than they already have.

A little ethical behavior can go a long way.

Update:

It turns out that I missed this last night before publishing my post:

http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=54746167130

… can’t catch everything.

Facebook has reverted back to their old terms of service – for now. They will be rewriting them with user input and in plain language.

Will they still be as opressive?

We shall see.

4 thoughts on “The Facebook Screw (Updated)

  1. ‘There only option is to bend to the wishes of their users. If they don’t they will do more irreparable harm to their relationship with their users than they already have.’

    I share your ‘prediction’ here. Microsoft should do that too.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more, pochp. Facebook has no competition (Myspace is NOT a worthy competitor), and so the countless people ignorant of this policy’s implications (and who already use Facebook as an outlet to slowly destroy their reputations) are going to continue to use the site. Frankly, I don’t think most people realize or care enough about this issue to stop using Facebook if the policy goes unchanged.

    Facebook began as a limited access site, exclusive to Harvard students and then expanded to include a select group of other academic institutions. They earned a reputation as the “greatest thing since sliced bread” during that time, and soon everybody wanted a piece. They later expanded their market by opening it up to everyone with a “.edu” email account, only to then open the floodgates to everyone and their mother.

    My point is, they had an excellent business model and marketing strategy from the beginning, and it took time to build this sophisticated system (“business” system, not social interface system). It will be difficult for another company to gain traction in this market based on the reputation that Facebook has earned, and the fact that everybody’s not going to want to make the switch to a new site. And even if a new company does successfully build a following in the social networking arena, what’s to prevent that new company from adopting the same policy once everybody’s hooked? Nothing, yet. Don’t be surprised if Congress eventually steps in sometime down the road.

  3. Peter, I can see that you missed my update (Which is OK because I missed the initial announcement from Facebook), however, pochp & my initial post were correct – they reverted back to their old policy for now.

    I also disagree with your assessment of the Internet and web users:

    First, I think that you have underestimated the quantity of users who were aware of Facebook’s breach of trust.

    Second, you have clearly underestimated the power of an angry cyber-mob.

    Third (and this is a big one), Facebook’s prominence now is no guarantee of future success. Remember AOL? Technology changes, times change, and users change. Just because it is popular now, doesn’t mean it won’t fall from grace. As more adults/parents begin making Facebook profiles, I promise you it will become less cool. Then younger users will seek out something they can make their own.

  4. 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.

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