You Post It, Facebook Owns It

New terms of service quietly published

By Jim Iovino
|  Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009  |  Updated 3:48 PM CDT
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Facebook Changes

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You know that picture of you doing shots off your neighbor's stomach? Facebook now has just as much right to it as you do!

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Facebook Changes

Facebook says they'll own whatever you put on their site from here on out.
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WASHINGTON -- You've been told to be careful what you post on your Facebook profile in the past, but there's an entirely new reason to worry.

The social-networking site recently changed its terms of service, and in doing so gave itself rights to anything you've uploaded to your profile. The TOS used to say that once a person closed his or her account, Facebook no longer had the right to that content. But those lines were taken out of the new TOS on Feb. 4.

As you can imagine, this has caused quite a stir in the blogging community, and among some of the site's 175 million users -- most of whom didn't know about the change until the blog world spoke up.

Perez Hilton has already called for a Facebook boycott.   Perez filed his post under the "Icky Icky Poo" category of his Web site with the following words of wisdom: 

"We're so glad we've never uploaded any of our stuff onto Facebook!  You Facebook users are SCREWED."

While Perez might not be good with the words, he gets his point across.

So what does the change mean to Facebook users? Consumerist probably says it best:

"Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want."

Aaron Brazell at Technosailor.com said he's advising people not to upload any content to Facebook except links to content elsewhere.

"Links merely point to the actual content," he said on his blog. "Most blogs and content site these days provide a 'Share with Facebook' tool that will allow readers (or yourself) submit content to Facebook. The sticky point is that you are not actually uploading the photo, or the video to Facebook itself. Merely an excerpt and thumbnail."
 

Of course, this won't help for all of the content uploaded before now, but it will protect you for all future postings. Brazell suggests using a program called Add This (http://addthis.com/).

UPDATE:  Late Monday afternoon Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg issued a statement on Facebook's main blog in an attempt to clarify the TOS change and calm the masses: 

"One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever. When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created—one in the person's sent messages box and the other in their friend's inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear.

"In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work. Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.

"We still have work to do to communicate more clearly about these issues, and our terms are one example of this. Our philosophy that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant. A lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you. Over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler."
 

While his words were encouraging, they still leave unanswered questions.  Here's hoping the next TOS change is announced out in the open instead of trying to sweep it under the social network's virtual rug.

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