Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Facebook Issue

Okay this slightly freaked me out.

As most of you may have known, I've just recently signed up in Facebook. After years of not being interested despite the numerous inquiries if I have an account, I finally joined the Facebook community. Last weekend, I decided to sign up because I'm simply bored with Friendster and I've been hearing from close friends that Facebook is better, more intereactive and more intelligent to the needs of social networking.

I signed up, explored on my own and found out that Facebook has a more expanded network. It's easier to search friends and there are lots of things you can do with it. You can blog, you can upload hundreds of pictures in organized albums easier and it upholds the very thought of being connected and updated with your various connections. In short, I immediately liked it.

Last weekend, I've been diligently managing my profile and began to upload pictures, invite friends and pour out some sentiments. I needed to catch up. Only to be bombarded by a news link I've read in about a certain privacy issue with Facebook. The large company, headed by Mark Zuckerberg, drafted a terms of service that "leaves an impression that the social network could keep and use copies of user content (e.g. photos, notes, and personal information) in perpetuity even if users removed the information and closed their accounts." (

He answered:

"One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever," Zuckerberg wrote. But, oddly, he did not answer that question. Instead he opted for a rather roundabout explanation: if you send a friend a message via Facebook's e-mail system, Facebook must create mutliple copies of that message -- one for your "sent" message box and one for your friend's inbox. That way, if you leave Facebook, the copy your friend has would not be deleted. Fair enough.

Also, according to Foxnews:

The long legal document all users must agree to before they can sign up — grants the company "an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) 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 ... (ii) enable a user to Post."

The thing that makes this whole issue stinks is that Facebook is licensed to copy and store whatever you share or post in your site even if you delete it. It might sound like a technical safety procedure, but in a business perspective, they also have a license to use whatever you post there for their benefit. When someone posts a picture in one's site he/she just expects people to stop by and look at it. As users, we feel safe that the photos and all the personal stuff stay in our own profiles where it's kept locked in passwords and stuff. But according to Facebook, they have as much every right of ownership for whatever stuff you share in Facebook. If one screws up the idea of privacy and ownership in these social networking sites then we are all screwed.

Also according to the terms and agreement, Facebook, compared to other social networking sites, has a much powerful and broader license to your content. Photos, notes and other stuff in the profile can be allegedly distributed and circulated without your knowledge.

As users, we don't want our information and photos used in any other way that we may not approve of. In terms of privacy, it is in my own personal control to distinguish what things I would like to share to the public. But if that information is misused to the degree that I am not aware of, then I might get pissed. Just like thousands of Facebook profile owners out there who are enraged and bothered by this sudden issue.

Facebook executives have reached out to the public on how Facebook upholds intense security and privacy measures. They re-assured that they would never use information that will violate their users. They would not go as much as grab contents, manipulate pictures and open up areas that are secured by the user.

Fair enough, but needs a little more explanation and transparency.

As a user, I'm not pretty much bothered on the privacy thing. It's a social network profile and I know that whatever I share there is backed up by honesty and integrity. I have no qualms of people viewing it and forming judgments about it. But if it is used for personal gains and in a manner that is far from the original purpose that I have designed (being distributed), then I would need to know. I'm trying to expand my world and not create additional complications by it.

It's a shame that I haven't read the terms and agreement (never do), but at least upon signing up Facebook needs to be more transparent on what the limitations and power they have over the contents. In public changes, they should let people be aware and safeguard Facebook's image as a secure social network site. I'm sure there are lots of legal loopholes there that I don't know. I might just be facing one of the most superficial issues in Facebook. But as a user, I know the basic implications of joining a social networking site and I do hope Facebook should know their responsibility to their users' welfare.

As a user I have fully decided that whatever I might share there, I can easily justify. People might view it and form judgments with it. I wouldn't care. That's just a clause that comes with exposing your expanded life. It's an underlying responsibility that we all face in social networking sites. I just hope that I won't find my thoughts, my pictures and my information outside my intended profile, used in a way that I have not approved of, or else it's a violation to my rights. And if it's true that Facebook upholds security, respect and would not do things that would violate its users, then I wouldn't have anything to worry about. Right?

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