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    Facebook reverts back to its old Terms of Service (TOS) after causing quite an online ruckus when it decided to update its TOS a few weeks ago. Interesting lines in the new TOS that enraged users included:

    • You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense)…
    • The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service…

    The said clauses indicate that the any user-content uploaded to Facebook becomes Facebook’s property, under an irrevocable, perpetual (aka forever), non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license, which does not expire even after the user terminates the service.

     In response, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg replied in his blog:

    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.

    One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever. When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created—one in the person’s sent messages box and the other in their friend’s inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear.

    In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work.

    Actually, putting anything on the Web is a sure-fire way to make information available for an indefinite period of time. Sites like Facebook, however, do allow the user to control how much information is available to the general public, though it is assumed that the information is deleted once a user opts out of the service.

    When a TOS declares that a certain establishment has full rights to your information (or content in this case) during and even after you’ve long stopped using the service, privacy concerns are raised. Most specifically: how is your data going to be used?

    While openly available profiles may be considered willing victims to data miners, privacy settings do give a sense of security that your information is not available to the outside world. Again, declaring that your user-content is now owned by an establishment makes users think that their data may be possibly misused from the inside. One is left to trust that Facebook does not use the user-submitted information in any manner offensive to users themselves.

    The lesson of the story is: just be careful what you post or put on the Web. The Web is a great way to socialize and share data. You just never know who will use that data and for what purpose, regardless of where you put it or what service you choose to use—and that holds true even with or without a TOS.

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