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Facebook Terms of Service Cause Uproar

| 18 Feb 2009 19:12
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A Terms of Service update on Facebook that seemed to claim rights to all user content sparked a controversy that spread from the internet to the mass media, forcing Facebook to go back on its claims.

Most people don't notice or care about Terms of Service when they register with a website or social network like Facebook. You know, that stupid contract that pops up that you have to scroll through and click "I agree" before you can get to browsing pictures of your friends drunk last weekend? Well, in the case of Facebook, those terms had been mostly harmless, but a revision a couple of days ago seemed to force users sign off their rights to whatever content they put on Facebook.

That version of the Facebook ToS granted "Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license" to do what they will with any user content you put on the site, as well as to "use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising" in connection with Facebook. It even gave Facebook the rights to archive user content even after you've deleted your Facebook account altogether.

The controversy elicited an upswell of community protest in the form of anti-ToS Facebook groups with up to 90,000 members and even mass media coverage from The New York Times, CNN and the like.

Though Facebook was initially defensive of the Terms, saying that they didn't ask for anything other online services haven't asked for before (email sites don't delete your emails after you ditch your accounts) and that their intent was wholly in line with the Facebook mantra of sharing and openness, the site has since decided to go back to their old Terms.

"Going forward, we've decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms," Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg wrote. "We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now."

Zuckerberg emphasized that the next revision of the terms would be free from legal jargon and would be easily understandable by all, making the information accessible and open. He also touched on the issue of the push-pull between how users want to share information through services but also want total control over that info, something he promises the next Terms of Service will address.

[Source: The Consumerist]

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