Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Facebook Reverts to Previous Terms of Service (TOS), No Longer Owns You

Nicholas Kinports (follow him on Twitter @ADMAVEN) has worked in the interactive technology world for over 15 years. He is the Digital Strategy Lead and founder of Chicago-based digital marketing firm lonelybrand, where he directs the creation and execution of digital marketing programs that generate measurable signups, conversions and sales.

In a savvy move to quell the outrage over amended Facebook Terms of Service (TOS) that claim ownership over user generated content, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a blog post that the company will be revisiting the changes, and in the interim will revert to previous TOS.

Zuckerberg writes:

"Going forward, we've decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don't plan to leave it there for long."

In addition, he requests input from users in a move similar to recent efforts by the Obama administration:

"If you'd like to get involved in crafting our new terms, you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we've created—Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I'm looking forward to reading your input."

As of this posting, the Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Group has almost 30,000 members and includes the following plain-language items:

1. You own your information. Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content.

2. Facebook doesn't claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don't claim to own your information.

3. We won't use the information you share on Facebook for anything you haven't asked us to. We realize our current terms are too broad here and they make it seem like we might share information in ways you don't want, but this isn't what we're doing.

4. We will not share your information with anyone if you deactivate your account. If you've already sent a friend a message, they'll still have that message. However, when you deactivate your account, all of your photos and other content are removed.

5. We apologize for the confusion around these issues. We never intended to claim ownership over people's content even though that's what it seems like to many people. This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.

From an advertising perspective, this means that Facebook has retrenched and will not be crossing the line of archiving and selling user data for segmentation and other purposes. In many ways this move preserves the long term value of Facebook as a trusted source of content for users, yet adds additional complications for future ad campaigns such as reaching the most relevant target audience and being able to understand the best ways to communicate messaging.


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