Monday, February 16, 2009


New Facebook Terms of Service grant Facebook the ownership of your content. Forever.

Thank you FinePrint Agent Colleen Lindsay for alerting us all to Facebook's new, unsettling, terms of service.

For all of us who import our notes into Facebook this creates a major dilemma. Many like to read and comment within our Facebook community rather than on the Internet at-large. Now all of us on Facebook have some decisions to make not just about our notes but about everything we post on Facebook. Darn capitalism:(

Lindsay writes,

The most disturbing sentence in the paragraph above is this one: "with the right to sublicense". Which essentially is Facebook telling their users that they can sell the subrights to any posted content on Facebook. This includes your personal information, any notes you import as RSS feeds and your personal photos. And theoretically, the way this is written, if you're an author who posts portions of your work-in-progress on your Facebook account, those portions belong to Facebook. Forever.

What are you going to do differently?

Modified to add: Facebook CEO Michael Zuckerberg just posted the following on Facebook. Since I don't know if you have to be a member to read it I will copy his post here in its entirety:

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.


  1. I won't do anything at all different. Everything that I post, anywhere, I cautiously regard like that.

    But, I may go back and delete some things, just because.

    What will you do different my dear friend Jill?

  2. I should have actually said, What will you do differently, not different.

    So I stand corrected by my grammatically correct alter-ego.

  3. I never did like Facebook. I tried it for about six months, but always felt uncomfortable -- they just ask for so much stuff. I "gutted" my account a year ago, set up a blog that all the things I liked about my FB home page, and left it at that. Today my FB page has my name and a link to my blog, and that's it (I suppose I have to give up the content from before I gutted as essentially lost, ownership-wise). The only thing that keeps me from shutting down my account altogether is that friends use it for event planning.

    Although, with the "in perpetuity" clause, that means that it doesn't matter if you shut your account down now, does it?

  4. As Brenda wrote, I'm going to be as cautious as I've always been anywhere and anytime I post. I think I'm going to remove my photo as I don't want Facebook to own any personal images. Many friends have asked me to post photos of my family and some gut feeling (along with local parent/law enforcement internet safety seminars) have kept me from posting anything about them. I'm glad I've followed my instincts on this.

  5. At this point I have stopped importing my notes and will manually add info regarding blog posts in my notes section on facebook, directing people to my blog.

    It seems that the Blog Network only imports a few sentences of my blog posts and then directs people to my blog so that may be OK to keep. I have contacted the powers that be at FB Blog Networks and will let you know what I hear.

  6. NETWORKED BLOGS seems like a safer way to add blog posts to your facebook wall than importing into your notes. You can set it to only post your blog titles and then direct people to your blog.

    I have been emailing back and forth with someone from Network Blogs and he said...

    Although NetworkedBlogs lives in Facebook, it's a separate application and it has a Facebook app and a separate web site ( ). I don't think any TOS can make the content you write become someone else's property. If you wrote it, you hold the copyright. Again, I'm no lawyer, but if that wasn't the case, then you have to worry about any tool that imports your blog feed because they could claim that they own your content. I don't think that's the case.

    ...You can control whether you want just the title, or the title/summary/pic through the "feed settings" menu on the blog page. It depends on whether you set it to publish "oneline stories" or "short stories"

    Either way, you can disable pulling the feed if you like by clicking on "edit details" and check the box that says "this blog has no feed".

    They are very nice and totally on top of things.

    Here is my link:
    Jill's Blog Network on Facebook

  7. What interests me about Facebook's response is that it's essentially, "Yeah, we said that. But c'mon, we're old friends. We won't use your stuff. We promise. Except we can whenever we want."

    I think posting links to your blog is the way to go; I can't see Facebook really using my drivel anyway. The pictures thing is what gets me; so Facebook could legally, it seems, use pictures of my kids, whose faces/names/identities I keep from the public, as advertising stock shots.

  8. Thanks, Jill.
    Funny, I was all ready this weekend to get setup on Networked Blogs... but then I got distracted.
    Good to know that's the way to go.

  9. Anna, send me an invite!

    If you haven't joined mine yet just click on the NetworkedBlogs, Follow this Blog button on the right.

    I love their NewsWall. For me, beats Google Reader.

  10. *sigh* I wish it wasn't so complicated! Now I'm concerned about original Poetry Friday poems...

  11. Wow, thanks for alerting us all on this...I've been away!
    I'm mostly concerned about my kids photos too...



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