Facebook Terms of Use furore

February 19, 2009 // 8:43 a.m.

Tags: #agreement #copyleft #copyright #eula #facebook #privacy #rights #social-networking #terms-of-use

Social networking site Facebook has been forced to reverse changes to its terms of use following user outrage.

As reported over on the New York Times yesterday, the company recently made a small change to its terms of use agreement – which all users must agree to and continue to be bound by for as long as they are a member – that resulted in Facebook being given a licence in perpetuity to use posted content, even if you should request deletion at some point in the future.

The change sparked a furore among the site's members, many of whom saw the move as a grab for their personal data. While content posted to the site has always been available for use by the company, the conditions prior to the change had a provision for the deletion of messages and images which had been posted on a profile should a member decide to terminate their account.

After the change, no such provision was made – and additional terms were added which clearly stated that the company would retain rights to any hosted content even after an account had been terminated.

Facebook's Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has stated that the move was not malicious, but merely to prevent content which is shared between more than one account suddenly disappearing should a single user decide to leave the service. Posting to his blog last week, Zuckerberg stated that his company's rule that “people own their information and control who the share it with has remained constant.”

Despite this, Facebook has decided to revert to an earlier version of the terms of use agreement – at least, for now. According to a message hosted on the front page of the site, the company has “received a lot of feedback about the new Terms [of Use]” and has decided to “return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.

While the company still wants to revise their agreement terms, Zuckerberg has pledged that the move won't be so high-handed next time – promising that the next version of the terms of use will be “a substantial revision from where we are now” and offering users “a lot of input in crafting these terms.

The revised terms of service – with a rather more carefully worded section on what happens to data posted by terminated accounts – is expected within the next few weeks.

Do you believe that Facebook had every reason to introduce a clause giving it rights to content that account holders might want deleting, or was the company being high-handed with its – unannounced – changes? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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