Facebook terms of service controversy

Arguments are raging about a change Facebook has made to its terms of service (TOS).

Facebook Terms of Service

On one side, privacy protestors who claim that the changes mean that Facebook “Can Do Anything [it wants] With Your Content. Forever.”

On the other, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who blogged that users should trust the company “not to share [the users’] information in a way [they] wouldn’t want.”

Hmm.. “trust” is all very well, but accidents can happen with data – even to a company like Facebook.

The Facebook terms of service currently say the following:

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.

However, they used to also say the following (which is now missing):

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Zuckerberg gives the example of a message sent between two Facebook users – one who has left the service, and one who has remained. He argues that the company shouldn’t wipe all records of the message, because the Facebook user who hasn’t jumped ship would expect to still have a record of your message. After all, that’s what happens with email, right? You don’t get an opportunity to erase records of old emails you sent from their recipients’ inboxes (however much you might sometimes want to..)

Whoever is right or wrong in this debate, I suggest you think very carefully about what you post on Facebook, on other social networking websites, and on the internet generally. If you wouldn’t shout it out through a megaphone in the middle of Piccadilly Circus don’t post it on Facebook.

But it’s worse than that. Stuff you post on the internet might last forever, always having the potential to haunt you. At least stuff you shout out in the middle of the city is only temporary, and will fade away and be forgotten.

Me? I don’t pay too much attention to Facebook’s terms of service. I decided long ago to break them* after they exposed mine (and everyone else’s) full date of birth, regardless of the privacy settings that I had chosen.

* I have given Facebook a fake date of birth, just in case they accidentally share it with the rest of the world.