Monday, February 16, 2009

Questioning Facebook's New Terms of Service

Facebook has updated its Terms of Services (TOC), which claims its rights over anything posted onto the site, forever (yes, even after the death of either you or your account, or both). A more detailed disclosure of the new term can be found here. My question is, however, why? What on earth is Facebook doing?

Facebook's reputation of user privacy protection is bad. The infamous Beacon had caught many arguments against this popular service. This time, however, the issue is beyond just privacy. It is also about the protection of intellectual property.

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch posted later a statement from Mark Zuckerberg, in which Zuckerberg basically called people to "trust" Facebook of using the data properly into the future. But Mr. Zuckerberg, even if we might trust you and your company (though itself is very much questionable), you and your company have VIOLATED my right of protecting my own intellectual property! Please, this is not only just about privacy, it is also about the value of knowledge.

Whenever I share anything in any network, I should retain the right of ownership of the information. Whenever I keep using the service, as part of the deal for exchanging the service support, it is fair for the service (such as Facebook) to obtain the right of using my shared knowledge. Once I have deleted the account that means I no longer use the service, however, I should and must have the right to decide whether or not I will still give the permission to the previous service to use my knowledge. Facebook's action of eliminating this right from its users simply shows how arrogance and greed this service has become.

I will no longer use this service any more until it literally removes this policy from the term.


Unknown said...

Not sure I understand your point. Once you have shared your knowledge over the net, do you want to still own it in the same way as before? Isn't sharing a form of giving away?

Yihong Ding said...


sharing is a form of giving away. It is a form of giving away knowledge. It does not, however, necessarily mean giving away "the control of my knowledge". They are two different concepts.

Let us take them in this way. You publish a Web page. Since this page becomes public, everybody can read and maybe write and use the knowledge in this page. Therefore, you give away the knowledge for the public to use.

At the same time, however, you are still the owner of the page. Whenever you delete the page. The knowledge is gone. You do not give away the control of the knowledge.

May the others copy your page and store it in another place. It depends. But if it contains your sensitive information such as the network of your friends or your valuable intellectual property such as thoughtful blog posts, you do not want them to copy everything, or at least do not want them to copy everything without referencing to your original site. Now when you decide that you want to delete the account of the original site, you do not want any of the reference or copy to point to the reference site too because no matter whatever, these resources are what you have produced. Unless you truly do not care of totally giving them away, they should/must belong to you. They are shared freely, but you should still own the control whether they are shareable any longer at any time.

This issue is a combination of intellectual property and privacy.