Facebook implements change in terms of service

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March 2, 2009

After online protests by users, Facebook reversed its decision to remove a privacy of online content clause from their Terms of Service.

The site will also give users the option to comment and vote on Facebook service terms and governing documents, according to a Feb. 26 Facebook press release.

Three weeks ago, Facebook deleted a portion of their Terms of Service that said, “If you choose to remove your User Content,” Facebook’s licenses to use content would expire, however Facebook would keep archived copies.

This change meant that Facebook could own a user’s content even after the user chose to delete their account.

Facebook users joined groups like “People Against the New Terms of Service (TOS),” concerned that the change in terms would give Facebook too much control of user content.

Group member Rich Griffin wondered if Facebook could sell his content to third parties. “Will I wind up seeing pictures of my niece staring at me from a bus stop at some point and be told I shoulda read the fine print?” wrote Griffin.

“People Against the New TOS” had over 100,000 members when Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s owner, announced the company’s plans to revert to the original terms.

Facebook then developed two governing documents: Facebook Principals, which details company values, and the Facebook Rights and Responsibilities, which talks about how Facebook should relate to users.

According to the press release, from now until 12:01 a.m. on Mar. 29., users can comment on the two documents. Facebook will take these comments into account and revise the documents.

Zuckerberg said that user contribution was important in the process of creating new terms. “Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms,” Zuckerberg said.

After the policies are published, Facebook will put them up for vote. The voting results will be made public if 30 percent of Facebook users or more vote.

“The idea that a major company like Facebook would give its users a vote in how the service is governed is remarkable,” said Julius Harper, who co-founded People Against the New TOS.

Even though the privacy clause is back, Bruce McCreary, Mills senior director of Information Technology Services, advised students to be aware of what they post online.

If anyone wants control over personal information, they should “keep it off the web,” he said.

McCreary also advised that students on Facebook and similar sites configure their accounts so that access to their pages is restricted to the “minimums that you would like to share.”

On Facebook, a user can configure his or her privacy settings by clicking on “settings” on the home page, and “privacy settings.”

Here, the user can set restrictions on who can see the content of their profile, search for them, view their news feed and wall, as well as control what information is available to different applications.

Senior Julia Middleton noticed that the Terms of Service were back in place when she logged in on last Wednesday.

Middleton said the thought of her content being passed around Facebook after her account was cancelled was “horrifying,” adding that people should “err on the side of caution when it comes to the personal content they publish on the internet today.”

To comment on the Principles, go here.
To comment on the Rights and Responsibilities, go here.


Facebook implements change in terms of service was published on March 2, 2009 in News

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