Why I’ve stopped using Facebook

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote anything for this blog, but this week has seen several things happening that I feel strongly about and so I’ve managed to put finger to keyboard again.

Some of you may have noticed that I recently posted on twitter and facebook that I was unhappy with the new FB terms of use and so would not be updating my status there any more. I would now like to explain why I feel this way.

The new terms state:

You are solely responsible for the User Content that you Post on or through the Facebook Service. You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses

Now the way I read this is that I give FB permission to use anything I put on the site for any purpose they wish; that I cannot revoke this right even if I delete the content or close my account; and that they can pass this on to anyone they wish to do likewise.

Now compare that to the previous terms:

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Notice the difference? Under the old terms, any content I delete from my account is automatically removed from the terms of the licence. The fact that they may keep archived copies is just a quirk of the internet.

In a blog post Mark Zuckerberg write this as a response to this situation:

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.

Well Mr Zuckerberg, you obviously haven’t quite grasped the difference between an email and content posted on your site. When I send an email, yes two copies are made, one in my machine, and the second on the recipient’s machine; this means that I have no control over the second copy. However, when I post to the facebook site, there is only one copy – on the facebook server. People viewing it do not download a copy, they vew the item on the server. Therefore if it’s deleted from the server, it’s gone. Forever. [ok I now that in reality mutliple copies may exist for the purpose of backups and that web-browsers actually download copies of the content, but I’m trying to keep it simple!]

Now consider what would happen a few years into the future when facebook has sold out to Megacorp Inc and I have become famous (I can dream!). Even if I have closed my account, and deleted all of my content; under these terms they would be able to use any thing which I had previously put on the site as they wished, even to advertise their products – without needing to ask my permission.

The changes to the terms of use were brought in by stealth. They fundamentally alter the relationship between facebook and it’s users; and they were brought in without notification. Changes such as this should have been notified to every user before hand so that users could remove content before giving away their rights.

Update [19/2/09]:

Well it looks like My Zuckerberg and the Facebook team have decided to listen to their users, at least temporarily. The original Terms have been re-instated whilst they look at write new ones. So I have now gone back to Facebook and deleted all the photos and other content that I have wish to keep some control over. I am happy to continue using the service as I do like the ability to connect with friends, I was just unhappy about the way they went about changing their terms of service

2 Responses to “Why I’ve stopped using Facebook”

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