Earlier this month, Facebook, the social-networking site on steroids, instituted an addition to their privacy act in their terms of service agreement that rightfully sent many users into a small panic.
Facebook was immediately claiming total licensing and ownership of any and all content that its users posted or uploaded to their profiles, including all content previously added.
This clearly angered hoards of the site’s users, and a virtual group, of course, was born. The group, “100,000,000 Against Facebook Owning Its Users’ Photos,” contained over 57,000 members as of 7:07 p.m. on Wednesday, became the centralized location for people to explain and vent their outrages on the topic.
If Facebook had wanted to institute a policy saying that everything added after today would be theirs, that would be different. It’s a little overbearing and would likely turn some current and potential users away. At least it would be transparent. The amount of content uploaded would likely decline, and Facebook might findthat its seemingly endless stream of sponsors would slow down dramatically.
Some users went so far as to delete their accounts and erase their content before the Facebook gods realized their blunder and reversed the decision, trying to quell the uprising that was quickly developing.
“As [Chief Executive] Mark [Zuckerburg] expressed in his blog post on Monday, it was never our intention to confuse people or make them uneasy about sharing on Facebook,” company spokesman Barry Schnitt said in a blog post. “I also want to be very clear that Facebook does not, nor have we ever, claimed ownership over people’s content. Your content belongs to you.”
Facebook is currently attempting to rewrite the terms of service to appease users and to avoid any other confusion or uprisings.
Users were outraged because they believed that this new policy was a strict infringement upon their rights to privacy and property.
This isn’t about whether or not people get to see our photos or our beloved wall posts. It’s about ownership. It’s about copyright infringement. The policy, if written fairly, should have said something like “from this day forward we will own what you put on Facebook.”
To change the policies so drastically as to take away the rights of students, parents and teachers around the country is absurd. When you make a new policy, you can’t immediately grandfather-clause in material that you never owned before.
We are hopeful, however, that this event will cause patrons of Facebook and other social sites to think carefully about what they post online. Facebook’s attempt at claiming ownership was over the line and a little bit Big Brother-ish. But millions of users, and we students are particularly notorious for this, share photos and other information with little concern for just who can access it and how.
For now, it seems like the pictures on Facebook accounts across the world are still as private as they can be, but this change of policy should hopefully cause users to ask some questions about the levels of ownership they really have when they release their personal information into that Great Set of Tubes.