- Facebook's Zuckerberg: Our Philosphy Is Simple, Terms Of Service Are Not

Staci D. Kramer
Tuesday, February 17, 2009; 2:07 AM

Following a much-discussed change in Facebook's terms of service, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg took to the company blog Monday in an effort to dispel concerns about who owns what when it comes to user data: "Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with. When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they've asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn't help people share that information."

Baseline: When someone leaves the social net, their own copies of data disappear but anything they've sent someone else lingers on, like the grin from the Cheshire Cat, whether they want it to or not. As Consumerist explained, Facebook took out some language from the terms that made it sound like users could expunge everything having to do with their accounts.

Zuckerberg admits the social net's way of explaining this is far from simple: "Our philosophy that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant. A lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you. Over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler." (The company also could make it more obvious?as a Facebook user, I may have acknowledged a change at some point since the terms changed on Feb. 4 but I honestly don't remember it.)

In the meantime, he wants users to take it all on trust?trust that if Facebook has the rights to use your data in perpetuity, they will not abuse it. This becomes a little harder to take if you've watched what happens to the accounts of people Facebook thinks run afoul of its terms?even when that may not be the case: their accounts simply disappear without the person who posted or accumulated that shared info being able to even make a copy. Zuckerberg doesn't refer to that issue but says the tension between information control and data portability are the root of some problems: "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."


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