Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Horizons

About Facebook's about-face

By Andrew Heining / February 18, 2009



The social networking site with a user base larger than the population of all but five countries saw a shakeup over the past couple days as it was taken to task for making changes to its terms of service. After much uproar the site reverted to the previous wording.

Skip to next paragraph

Recent posts

First noticed by consumer advocacy site The Consumerist, the new language changed what the site could do with a user's content after their account had been deleted. The New York Times explains:

Earlier this month, Facebook deleted a provision from its terms of service that said users could remove their content at any time, at which time the license [that the company has to use the photos, posts, and information] would expire. It added new language that said Facebook would retain users’ content and licenses after an account was terminated.

Users were outraged. Protest groups sprang up on the site, including "People against the new Facebook Terms of Service (TOS)," which drew more than 80,000 members. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) prepared a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

Seeking to put out fires, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post on the company's blog, making assurances that the company meant no harm in the change, and that its users own their information and control whom they share it with:

In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work.

But that post, the Times pointed out, didn't make any mention that the offending language would change. It wasn't until early Wednesday morning that word came – through another company blog post and a message that popped up on users' screens at log-in – that the site was reverting to its original terms of service.

To go along with the promise of a more democratic process for changes to the site's terms of use, Zuckerberg invited users to join the conversation. "If you'd like to get involved in crafting our new terms, you can start posting your questions, comments, and requests in the group we've created—Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I'm looking forward to reading your input," he wrote.

Response to the quick revert has been largely positive, save for this post from All Things Digital's Kara Swisher, which poked fun at Zuckerberg and the company's handling of the saga. Many outlets, including TechCrunch, pointed to the company's past struggles with changes, including 2007's Beacon debacle.

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story