Facebook’s New Terms of Service – they own your data forever!

Facebook’s New Terms of Service – they own your data forever!

Thank to The Consumerist for this, which I’d missed at the time. Facebook revised it’s Terms of Service on 4th February 2009 which gives it almost limitless rights to do what it wants with your data…forever, regardless of whether you decide to terminate your account.

Facebook’s terms of service (TOS) used to say that when you closed an account on their network, any rights they claimed to the original content you uploaded would expire. Not anymore.

Now, anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later. Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sub-license it if they want.

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sub-license) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

That language is the same as in the old TOS, but there was an important couple of lines at the end of that section that have been removed:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. 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.

Furthermore, the “Termination” section near the end of the ToS states:

The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.

This is quite relevant to some research I’m doing now in preparation for a presentation next month about the colliding worlds of EDRM and Web 2.0. There’s a blurring of the edges between Enterprise data  (i.e. that which is stored and managed inside the corporate firewall) and data created and used by staff outside the firewall, which may fall within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act or the Data Protection Act. Records managers may soon have to grasp the concept of having infinite record retention schedules, i.e. Web 2.0 data is forever and not subject to disposal schedules!

I suspect that many Government departments and local councils that have started to use social networks and social media for consultation with citizens or as part of their service delivery may not full appreciate the implications of information governance in a very unregulated Web 2.0 world.

In the mean time make sure you never upload anything to the social web that you don’t feel comfortable giving away forever, because one day it may come back to bite you!

7 thoughts on “Facebook’s New Terms of Service – they own your data forever!

  1. I’m not surprised by this because I have witnessed it before on another website. But they didn’t go this far. I don’t think this is fair to us end users.

  2. A recent comment to me from Conrad Taylor on Facebook – don’t put anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want published in a newspaper.

    I think that’s a fairly good rule to stick by!

  3. Inclined to agree that posting to the social web is akin to giving something away forever but if – as you also note – Gov isn’t clued up on the rights / responsibilities in this space then there’s little chance that the general public are properly informed.

    So, given that we’re all feeling our way and mistakes will be made we should demand less greedy T&Cs from Facebook. Pressure from a community of users has in the past convinced the likes of MySpace to improve their policies.
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/08/blly_bragg_myspace/

  4. Michael – thanks for the comments and entirley agree; it’s up to the users to campaign for fairer Ts and Cs. The MySpace example is evidence that the power fop crowds can make a difference. I haven’t checked to see if there is a group on Facebook that is campaigning on this. I’m trying to do my bit to get Gov and local gov better informed about the issues – I’m doing a couple of presentations on over the next few weeks, tragetted at gov information managers.

  5. Have just picked up a Tweet saying that Facebook have reverted to their previous ToS whilst discussions continue. I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, but you can follow the hashtag #facebooktos if you want to keep up with the debate.

  6. It seems it’s true – Mark Zuckerberg has reverted to the original Terms of Service. It’s a great pity he didn’t consider some form of consultation with users before he made the changes that have been the subject of such vociferous debate – and which have left Facebook with little credibility.

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