Facebook Changes Terms of Service
So, last week the Internet just about exploded when popular consumer advocate blog The Consumerist flagged a change in Facebook’s Terms of Service policy when they deleted what some considered a pretty important clause:
You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.
Suddenly, this important privacy safeguard was gone and the Internet community erupted in such an uproar that Facebook eventually replaced the missing clause (and, in fact, reverted completely to their old Terms of Service), claiming it was a “mistake”, and that the old terms would remain in place while they “resolve the issues”.
Over the past few days, you may have noticed upon logging into a Facebook a temporary message floating just above your News Feed (that is, if you still have Facebook – I’m looking at you, Mark). It linked to this post on the Facebook blog, announcing that Facebook is splitting its Terms of Service into two new documents; one entitled “Facebook Principles”, which will define the rights of users and provide, as founder Mark Zuckerberg states, “the guiding framework behind any policy we’ll consider – or the reason we won’t consider others.” The other is the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities”. Both documents have their own groups with a comment system, and will allow Facebook users for the first time to “officially” make decisions on how Facebook will be governed.
This is a really interesting development in social media, and an interesting experiment on Facebook’s main demographic – namely, us college-aged types. Zuckerberg acknowledges the user reaction to the introductions of both the News Feed and the new design, and while he warns that this comment and voting system will not be available for such major changes to the site, they are, at the very least, available to us now – a show that Facebook is listening. It’s our time to prove, not just as social networking users but as The Next Generation (dibs on Riker!) that we are more than capable of governing ourselves; that allowing a user base to make their own decisions in a transparent and democratic fashion is in the best interest of a product’s lifespan; and that users truly value their privacy and the information they share, even if it is online – let US choose how to use it.
The rest of the online media world (and, consequently, the corporate world) better be keeping their eye on this too – if we can prove to Facebook that we can handle ourselves in a reasonable, respectable manner when it comes to how we use social networking, perhaps they’ll listen to us when it comes to how we use other media, such as downloadable content or online television. After all, we’re the people using it – how about listening to us for a change? I can’t help but picture a bunch of suits in some city highrise trying to determine how to make more money, when really it’s as simple as giving users what they want, not what you think they deserve.
Speaking of, let’s turn it over to you, the reader: What changes would you like to see come to Facebook? Should we be responsible for governing ourselves in this Brave New World of online communication?