February 17, 2009

“Facebook Owns You” [3:28 pm]

Well, “maybe” is the operative word, of course. The real answer to the question probably has little to do with the terms of use, and everything to do with the ways in which the technologies and the business models evolve: Facebook’s Users Ask Who Owns Their Information (pdf)

The pages, called terms of service, generally outline appropriate conduct and grant a license to companies to store users’ data. Unknown to many users, the terms frequently give broad power to Web site operators.

This month, when Facebook updated its terms, it deleted a provision that said users could remove their content at any time, at which time the license would expire. Further, it added new language that said Facebook would retain users’ content and licenses after an account was terminated.

Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, said in a blog post on Monday that the philosophy “that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant.” Despite the complaints, he did not indicate the language would be revised.

[...] Greg Lastowka, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Law who is writing a book on Internet law, said Facebook’s language was not unusual. “Most Web sites today offer terms of service that are designed to protect and further the interests of the company writing the terms, and most people simply agree to terms without reading them.”

Later: Facebook Withdraws Changes in Data Use (pdf)
<sarcasm>
This, of course, changes everything!
</sarcasm>

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