After an outpouring of privacy concerns from many of its users, popular social networking site Facebook scrapped its new terms of service agreement.
Facebook allows users to store and share personal information and photographs on its site. The Palo Alto-based company posted a new agreement in early February that granted the company “irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide” rights to material posted by its 175 million users, even if they deactivate their memberships.
Facebook’s initial response was to post a statement titled “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.“
“You own your information, Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content,” the statement said.
The statement made clear that Facebook’s ownership would only be over messages and information sent from one user to another, which may remain there long after the first user deactivated their account. “We never intended to claim ownership over people’s content even though that’s what it seems like to many people.“
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his blog that the company would never use any users‘ personal information inappropriately.
“The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work,” Zuckerberg wrote.
A few UC Davis students expressed worry.
“I don’t really use Facebook much, but I would feel uncomfortable putting up my personal information if they could do what they wanted with it,” said sophomore Laura Trimble, an undeclared physical sciences major.
Since Facebook is a website whose business it is to help users share personal information with each other, experts say the privacy issues are more complex.
Anupam Chander, a professor specializes in cyberlaw at the UC Davis School of Law, said that in situations such as these ones, there are two things on the users‘ side.
“First, you need to see whether the terms are enforceable, whether the third party [Facebook] could claim ownership over these things in court,” Chander said. “But the best way to fight this was exactly what the users did – protest the terms until they were dropped, or change.“
On a site such as Facebook, where personal information is constantly shared every day, it remains to be seen just how much ownership one has over personal information.
TOM MORRIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.