Internet Privacy

Does such a thing exist anymore? Privacy on the internet is becoming harder and harder to find anymore, except within a website that you yourself own. But if you’re posting practically anything on, say, a social networking site, they pretty much have complete control over using anything you post on there for their own use, right? Facebook has once again become under fire for their Terms of Use (TOU) due to, mostly, the way they worded it, but also for what it contained. Of course, when you post something on a website, they have to gain ownership of it in some way in order to share it with your friends, or others who are looking for your profile on the website. Although this makes sense, does giving the site full creative license to do whatever they want with your content make sense? In a simple nutshell, and in plain English, FaceBook’s new TOU said the following:

“You give Facebook the right to do what they wish with your content, including and not limited to your photos, videos, status messages, etc. We can use, store, edit, publicly display, and more, anything that you upload to the Facebook website. Even if you remove content, Facebook will still have a copy of your content stored.”

Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? While Facebook didn’t use that exact wording, since I simplified it for our use, it’s basically what they meant by the whole thing. I think the first issue here to address is the privacy factor. Facebook has already had privacy issues, especially with the original release of the News Feed. Before, it was able to just post everything that you did on the website, but uproar convinced them to add in the now deep and complex privacy controls for everything regarding your profile. This TOU shows that they would be able to publicly use any of your content to show to anyone, and for what purpose, only we could speculate. Not two years ago, Facebook was strictly for college students only, and was more secure than almost any social networking site out there. But when they opened up to the public, their philosophy changed greatly. Now, I can’t deny that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has made a good point in one of his Blog posts.

“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.”

While I can get behind that, I do have to say that I have an issue with something. By saying this, does this mean that Facebook also has complete control over our private messages as well, and is allowed to use them in some way? Something about bringing up that as an example doesn’t make much sense. Also, when you delete a picture from your profile, does it delete it from your friends’ News Feeds as well? Maybe it’s just me and I would assume that it would do such a thing, but that’s the logical answer to such a problem. Of course, media websites on the web have covered this story a lot in the past few days as this has taken place, and a small uproar has come to the Facebook website as well. In an odd turn of events though, Facebook decided to revert back to their old TOU until they could work out the wording within their new one. They seem to be chalking up a lot of the issue to the way they’ve clarified their TOU in the new version, and plan on once again releasing a new version, but more well written supposedly. I always assumed that the original TOU already contained the license to be able to use our content, but in the sense that it can be shown to our friends, or the public on the badges we create. As I look back at the previous TOU, I still see the same wording that was supposedly in the new one, although with a few added bits that help to emphasize how the content we post is still ours.

The biggest issue that I’m noticing is that Facebook’s new TOU (now null of course with the revert) added in the fact that they are able to use content not only currently on the site, but also any content that you may have previously posted on their site, including those images and videos of you at the drunken frat party that you quickly took down before one of your professors was shown it. While it is your responsibility to not let a picture or video of this find it’s way onto the site in the first place, you don’t always make the right decisions about it when you’ve been drinking that night, and this is where things go wrong. Earlier today, Mark wrote another Blog entry about the issue.

“Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand.”

I almost want to jump out and say, “Well unless you’re going to just come out and say ‘When you post stuff on Facebook, we have the right to use it not only to share to your friends, but also for our own profit'”, then I just don’t see what else they’re planning on doing. Now, this isn’t to say that Facebook isn’t the only site to use  member content to show in advertising and such, but if they’re planning on using a language that anyone can understand, they will have to simplify it to a point that a website hasn’t done before. A TOU, sadly, is meant to be a legal binding contract, and in being so, it must be something that is worded well enough that if it were brought up in a court of law, it would be non-arguable. It will be interesting to see how Facebook continues from here though, as they have to tread lightly as they continue forward.

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