The Small Print Project                            

Are Facebook’s Terms of Service Fair?

facebook logoThere’s been a lot of talk about Facebook and its terms and dedication to privacy over the past 5 months since it launched the F8 Platform which spawned an elaborate and decentralized Developers Network.

We recently received a submission questioning Facebook’s Terms of Service:

Lowpoints: By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant… worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy… and distribute such User Content for any purpose…. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time.

Highpoints: 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.

Based on these terms, it should be clear to all that what happens in Facebook is Facebook’s. Sure, you can remove anything you submit / post on Facebook at any time, which consequentially terminates said liscences / sublicenses, but — does Facebook immediately archive all submissions? According to these terms, Facebook could stay out of trouble by immediately broadcasting all submissions/content via archival copies — which Facebook retains all rights to in perpetuity, whether or not the user withdraws said content. In essence, Facebook could hijack one’s copyright thanks by adding it’s stamp to an otherwise unchanged digital archive.

What deficiencies have you noticed in Facebook’s Terms and privacy policies in regards to third party applications? What issues do you fear / foresee and how can Facebook users further protect themselves? Moreover, what risk do these conflicts present to a company now “valued” at $15bn and how must it lead by example? Is Facebook breaking its own rules by allowing staff to circumvent the privacy policy, as Valleywag’s Nick Douglas alleged?

  • B T

    Here’s a fun and informative Flash presentation on Facebook and where it has received venture capital and funding from.

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  • http://www.poleexercise.co.uk/ Andrew

    Isn’t this just boilerplate legalese to ensure they can redistribute content? I remember reading something during the Bragg v MySpace fracas last year arguing that this sort of clause was misunderstood, and that the expiration clause you cite above effectively prevents exploitation by the company (I’m afraid I’ve lost the link).

    My understanding of the archive bit is that they don’t want to have to edit stuff out of backups or cached copies every time someone leaves the site. If I’ve read it correctly, although they may keep an archived copy, they do not retain rights to distribute (etc.) it. Am I wrong on this?

    But that said, I’m clearly not a fan. :)

  • evan

    I used to care about facebook saving (and labeling) dozens of pictures of me regardless of me even being on the site (thank you “friends”). It also bothered me for a while that a very detailed picture of every person was being created. By this I mean facebook is taking a picture of people the way that google is taking pictures of the earth. But then I realized all this is inevitable and there is no use fighting it. There is a new world being built and like all babies it will be adored for quite a while. My fear about facebook is a 23 year old is running it. You know how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and you might also remember how corruptible youth is. I don’t want one of the superpowers of the new world to be a privileged brat who has never struggled in his life. This is not who anybody should want to give that much power to.

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    I don't Facebook's terms of service are fair – if they think they are they should put them in size 12 typeface and post a link from their home page whilst putting questionable parts in bold…

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    I agree that the issue of Facebook claiming ownership of all your content for life should be clearly indicated. IMHO it is hidden away, most Facebook users will probably not be aware of it.

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    I dont think thats fair at all! Facebook owning everything I put on there!

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    I haven't have enough experience with facebook since I'm more on twitter and myspace, facebook services sucks and also their terms of agreement..

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    $15bn, I in a shock, and all it for some years, is over what to think :-)

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    I agree.. I don't think Facebook's Terms of Service are fair. Actually before I register to a certain networking site, I do read their terms of services, many ignore it, but I don't. I am satisfied of what are written there so I agree. No problem with facebook at all.

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    I agree.. I don't think Facebook's Terms of Service are fair. Actually before I register to a certain networking site, I do read their terms of services, many ignore it, but I don't. I am satisfied of what are written there so I agree. No problem with facebook at all.

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    Their services for security concerns are fair enough.. they allow users to access Facebook more securely.

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    Facebook’s  terms and conditions are really very good. They have taken care of every single thing.

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  • Mineco

    Yes… Great posting above. We even don’t read before you ask for sign up on giant online corporation. But we should read the TOS, so that we can get a clear view before signing up. Mineco 

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    Facebook is a great social network, I’m fan of it but I really didn’t read about their tos. You pointed out some potential facts, that everybody should know before signing up. MP3 downloads

  • Leesa

    I think terms and conditions are vital factor and It should be very clear to the subscribers. So that they can easily understand the consequences. Some of community sites doesn’t mention it rightly and They think this can reduce their signup numbers. Now a days its become a marketing tactic.

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