On February 15 the user awareness blog Consumerist discovered that Facebook had discretely changed its Terms Of Service – slashing a couple of lines about the expiration of Facebook's ownership of your content after you delete your profile, as well as tacking on the following addendum:
“The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other (?!).”
Unsurprisingly, the Internet media kabal – which already has a lot of trust issues – had a conniption. New Media-types forced by their line of work to live their lives online (I'm talking to you Sasha Frere Jones) deleted their accounts in protest and the Consumerist post became a flame war of epic proportions. To his credit, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the FB PR team responded immediately to what one commenter called an “inexcusable blunder,” the equivalent of imposing a data dictatorship on what Zuckerberg himself called “the sixth most populated [post geographic] country in the world.”
Most of us gloss over TOS agreements on a daily basis, clicking on the “I agree” button without a second thought as to whether we just sold our soul to the Coffee Bean in exchange for free wireless, yet we throw a hissy fit when anyone even remotely threatens our right to post our make out photos online without consequence.
Facebook, like Twitter, Gmail, or any data storage service, needs to have the license to reproduce your information in order to function – how else are you going to let everyone know that you're attending “Cowboy Tactics 101” or that you're a member of the “Groups are Stupid” group? That's what the old TOS said for those who bothered to read it. The blogosphere's point of contention with the new version was its infinite timeline of Facebook's license to reproduce the minutae of our lives, and its confusing legalese, like, “by logging into the Facebook network you agree to the terms of service.” (How are you going to read the terms of service to know if you agree with them if you're not logged in in the first place?)
To many it seemed like the end of “WHAT HAPPENS IN FACEBOOK STAYS IN FACEBOOK.”
On February 17th, Zuckerburg and his team issued a formal apology for the confusion and FB reverted back to the original terms of service, at least until they can get a bunch of people who did well on the LSAT to repurpose a new TOS that doesn't ring the 1984 alarm.
So while you wait for the New World Order, LAWeekly.com asks, what exactly are you posting that you're so worried about?
Top 10 Things You Don't Want Facebook to Own (About You, FOREVER)
10. The fact that you actually click on those Sparkey “10 People in Your Area Have Expressed Interest In You” ads. Barnum's maxim about “Suckers being born every minute” = the first amendment of spam.
9. That two hours ago you “just woke up but still thinking about last night. FUN,” or any number of embarrassing status updates. I especially enjoy anything remotely related to “eating a burrito.”
8. The distribution rights to that graduation pic that someone tagged of you where it looks like you have a double chin.
8 1/2. The fact that you went on a stealth reconnaissance mission to un-tag that graduation pic that someone tagged of you where it looks like you have a double chin.
7. That you changed your relationship status from “single” to “it's complicated” five times in the past week, without any external signs of change in the situation. (Why does “it's complicated” seem like more of a commitment somehow?)
6. That despite your * 17 event requests * 15 cause requests * 5 petition requests * 3 election rally invitations and * 121 other requests, you're spending Friday (or Thursday if you're in L.A.) night on Facebook, “poking” people.
5. That you actually briefly considered accepting that “Knighthood Invitation.” (Looks like someone spilled the beans about your D & D alter ego.)
4. That you've gamed your Compare People “Would Rather Be Trapped With On A Desert Island” ranking by repeatedly begging friends to compare you (Oh, btw – Compare People, if you're reading this, it's “desert-ed” NOT “desert,” An island, which is surrounded by water, is the complete opposite of a desert. I'm just sayin'…)
3. That there are actually really only about 17 “Random Things” (or habits or albums, or whatever the current iteration is) that you find interesting about you. For every one person that filled out one of those lists, 20 stopped at #11 and thought, “You know, I am actually boring” and took a nap.
2. The # of times you attempted to see if your crush has made their page public yet.
1. That according to someone's “Cabo Drink Till You Vomit Tour '09” photo album, those “sick days” you took last week were in Mexico.
Stay tuned as the controversy plays out on Facebook blog. In the meantime, don't post anything online that you don't want shared or, in this case, pwnd.
You can find Alexia Tsotsis on Facebook.