The Facebook uproar over privacy: Part 2,139

Just to set some context, I’m about the last person you want to ask about things like privacy, because, for the most part, I just don’t care. Granted, I am perhaps totally alone on the Internet when it comes to this viewpoint. But there it is.

So it was with a deep sigh and a giant eye roll that I read about the latest dust-up involving Facebook and privacy. In a nutshell, Facebook has tweaked its Terms of Service to say:

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.

The Horror!

That horrible place online where everybody shares every detail of their lives already said that it retains the right to your information that is posted on Facebook. Now, it seems to be saying that it will own it forever, even if you deleted your account.

As was to be expected, the outrage was fast and harsh. The obligatory Facebook group was created to protest the move. By Monday afternoon, there were 6,590 members.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg made the fatal error of actually trying to have a reasonable discussion of the issues involved. In a thoughtful post on Monday, Zuckerberg explained some of the reasons behind the change.

In essence, when you share something on Facebook with a friend, you make two or more copies. If you delete your account, your friend will still have the copy of that message or photo or whatever in their account that you shared. Zuckerberg said the change in the TOS was meant to reflect that reality.

Zuckerberg also thoughtfully pointed to the larger, philosophical questions involved, including some of the contradictory notions at the heart of social networking:

People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.

He’s right, of course. But good luck getting anyone to listen. The hounds have been set loose. Swords have been drawn. The Internet is not a place for such weak fools such as those who might actually change their minds.

The only question now is when Facebook will cave and change the TOS back so we can get on to the next silly outrage.


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  • Bev Barnett

    I know blog comments are way more interesting when one argues with the blogger… but I agree completely. Ho hum and so what. Anyone who hasn’t figured out by now that the Internet never has been and never will be a private place should sign off now and go find a nice dark cave somewhere.

  • heavymtl

    You hit the nail on the head – the reality is, once something gets put on the web you pretty much lose all control over it. If you can’t accept that, then don’t post it. Plain and simple.

  • David Gaines

    I think I was upset for the first three minutes, then I thought about cool it would be if they posted my writing on a T-Shirt, even if I didn’t get credit or money. I mean, I’m not doing it. Maybe, because, who in the hell is going to buy it? The way I see, only people looking at anyone’s photos and content are their friends anyway.

    Good post. I hope to see it on Facebook one day!

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  • Mickey Mouse

    Thank God we still live in a world where you can get internet privacy, even if it comes at a price. Since we the people have been deemed unworthy to maintain our own internet privacy, what has the world come to?

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