Facebook Struggles with Privacy Uproar

Users still own and control their own information, contends Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But what about that onerous change to its Terms of Service?


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Posted February 17, 2009

David Needle

Facebook moved quickly this week to assure users they are still in control of the information they post to the popular social networking site. But the company did not say it would make any changes in its Terms of Service (TOS) agreement at the heart of the current controversy.

At issue are changes Facebook made a few weeks ago to its TOS, the online contract users agree to in order to join community sites such as Facebook. In a Feb. 16 blog post headlined, "Facebook: All Your Stuff is Ours, Even if You Quit," the Consumerist Web site noted what it called "a seemingly slight but very important (and disturbing) change in Facebook's terms of service regarding user-generated content."

The changes are allowed as part of Facebook's standard TOS, which says in part: "We reserve the right to change our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use at any time."

The following section of the TOS was noted in The Consumerist (a not-for-profit subsidiary of Consumers Union) blog post Sunday and also led, presumably, to the response Monday by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

You are solely responsible for the User Content that you Post on or through the Facebook Service. 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. You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.

In a blog post Monday afternoon headlined, "On Facebook People Own and Control Their Information," Zuckerberg said that "A number of people have raised questions about our changes" and that he wanted to clarify what was done to the TOS.

In the best interest of users?

Zuckerberg argued the changes were actually made in users' best interests. He said in part:

"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."

And later: "In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want."

Facebook is hardly alone in having to deal with controversy over how it handles user's personal information and files. Other sites, including Google, have had their own share of privacy-related issues.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.

Tags: Facebook, Google, social networking, privacy, policy

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