Facebook Fans The Flames Of Its TOS Change Overreaction

from the guilty-conscience? dept

Some Facebook users are in an uproar after the site changed its terms of service to say that it retains a license to users' content after they delete their account. As the company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, explains, this change simply clarifies the point that actions on Facebook can create two copies of content. He says that when users add a friend or send a message, for instance, it generates two copies of the action: one for the user on each side. So say a user sends a message to a friend, then later deletes their account; the new TOS language clarifies that Facebook doesn't have to delete that message from their friend's inbox. As is often the case, the backlash over this change is largely an overreaction.

Even so, it's hard to think that nobody at Facebook anticipated it and took some proactive steps to address the changes and attempt to allay concerns and preclude the overreaction. Instead, Zuckerberg responds only after the fuss has been kicked up, and his explanation comes off as damage control, regardless of the motivations behind it or the TOS change. This situation seems akin to the scandal that emerged after the heads of US automakers took private jets to Washington when they went to ask for government bailout money. Whether or not the indignation over the private flights was warranted was mostly irrelevant, but the fact that nobody at the automakers anticipated it and raised a red flag smacks of stupidity. It's hard to imagine that nobody at Facebook could have seen this storm of complaints coming, generated by what many there saw as a minor TOS change. Is Facebook's TOS change really that bad? No, it's not particularly egregious -- but by not staying ahead of the backlash, Facebook comes off looking the worse for it. The point isn't that Facebook or any other company shouldn't change their TOS to better reflect their businesses and technology, but that in this day and age, any "minor" change is going to attract lots of scrutiny, and, in all likelihood, will be misunderstood and misinterpreted. This makes the handling of the change much more important than the change itself.

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  1. icon
    Duane (profile), 17 Feb 2009 @ 9:19pm

    Re: Facebook isn't your friend

    Yes, but if your friend is keeping a copy of that email or photo in her inbox, then chances are it is also on the service provider's server. (Provided you both use the same service, which is the case here.)

    I can see the potential for misuse, but I can also see how this is just explaining what is a fact of life.

    My university has a copy of every message anyone has ever sent me. How and why? Because I keep all those messages and my e-mail inbox and archives are on their servers. That's it, and that's all. There's no way around that unless you force everyone to house all of their stuff on their personal computing device, and then we might as well go back to wearing flannel and listening to grunge rock.

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