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. identicon
    Jake, 18 Feb 2009 @ 1:15pm


    Compare the Terms of Service for Facebook to those for Flickr. Flickr makes it very clear that their rights only go as far as making copies to provide the service. Facebook reserves the right to do just about anything under the guise of promotion, such as using your photo to advertise products to your friend.

    It's a real issue. That's one reason (among others) that pro photographers stay far away from Facebook. And it helps explain why the photos on Facebook are so generally crap.

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