Facebook Backs Down After Public Outcry

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It appears that the folks at Facebook are backing down after a public beating on the Terms of Service policy.

CNET breaks it down on why this might be happening.

Facing a federal complaint from a leading privacy advocacy organization and a revolt of tens of thousands of its users, Facebook on Tuesday night backed down from what many have seen as an onerous privacy policy.

The complaint in question is from EPIC.

According to PC World, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is getting ready to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, demanding that the massively popular social networking service return to its previous policies.

The Wall Street Journal also reports of the change.

Just a day after standing by the revisions, the company said it would scrap the new policy and return to its previous terms of service in a notice to its 175 million users on its Web site.

“Over the past couple of days, we have received a lot of questions and comments about these updated terms and what they mean for people and their information,” read the statement, which Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg expanded upon in a blog post. “Because of the feedback we received, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.”

He added that the company would work on a “substantial revision” of the terms and give Facebook users a role in crafting it by voicing their opinions through a group on its Web site, “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.”

The retreat comes after users and privacy professionals raised concerns about changes the company made to its terms of service a few weeks ago but that drew fresh attention from some blogs over the weekend. In particular, Facebook’s new policy said that its right to use and modify a users’ content did not automatically expire if the user removed the information from the site.

I’m thinking that Zuckerberg was a bit naive about the TOS and the response. When Facebook said that even if someone deleted their account, they would continue to own their personal information was the crux of this week’s uproar. And, in fairness, Zuckerberg has always cited Facebook as an advertising platform.

The Telegraph asks a very good question about Facebook and brings up some past history.

Facebook has issued an open letter backing down on its controversial new terms of service, which state that the company has the rights to keep and republish user data forever.

“Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago,” founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote to members. “Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.”

However, privacy campaigners will be likely to keep a close eye on the website, given its history of reintroducing controversial services at a later date.

As Scott noted last night, the conversation on Twitter has sparked many questions regarding the Facebook controversy.

Let’s say 5 years from now Facebook is no longer viable as a business. Maybe advertising revenues can’t support the weight of the application, or maybe some cash heavy company (Microsoft, Google) launches a competitor with more features that cleans your keyboard or reads your thoughts. Now what is Facebook to do?

One out for them may be to sell this huge database of information they now own. It contains lots of information that is extremely valuable, like matches of real names and photos to email addresses, relationships with other email addresses, names, photos, etc.  Wouldn’t this be a great option for investors looking to cash in on their investment and walk away?

Scott and I are still on Facebook. But our use of the service many not be what it was at one time.

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4 Comments

  1. christinajade said February 18, 2009 | Permalink

    the federal complaint and the massive loss of users must have done the trick.

    hmmm.

    i still can’t stand facebook, and i’m still staying off! 🙂

  2. Scott Adcox said February 18, 2009 | Permalink

    I think it may be a little late. This woke a lot of people up to the whole idea of content possession…even me, while I was busy screaming “no more free content for FB” I was busy uploading photos. LOL!!!

    I have a longer post coming about this though…

  3. Joe P. said February 18, 2009 | Permalink

    i think it was the removal of my blog feed from FB that was the tipping point. (at least, i would like to think that. so i am.)

  4. coffee said February 22, 2009 | Permalink

    Sadly, most people would not have looked closely enough to notice the change in Facebook’s Terms of Service… looks them social networkers are doing a good job of looking out for each other

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