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Facebook’s new TOS: We have rights to everything posted here, forever. Sorry!

Facebook pulled a "Columbia House" on us

Facebook pulled a "Columbia House" on us

Well, as I’ve said in the past, you can’t expect to use free services and have any semblance of privacy.

Facebook updated their Terms of Service (TOS) yesterday and slipped in a little “extra” clause which ultimately means that everything you or anyone you know has posted to Facebook is now theirs, forever. Thanks to Consumerist et al for noticing and outlining the ramifications.

They’re free, right? They spent tons of dough developing stuff that you get to play with for free, so what did you expect?

I run a few online businesses, and in my terms of service is the standard clause that “We can change our terms of service at any time with or without notice to you.” It’s your basic lazy person business strategy: Most people are too lazy to be vigilant, and too busy to pay attention to every little detail.

The old “Columbia House 12 CDs for a penny” which was popular back in the eighties and nineties was the exact same ploy. People are lazy. They give you 12 CDs for a penny, and require you to purchase 6 more at “regular club prices” (Read: $13.99 plus $9.99 shipping and handling and $2.99 convenience fees.) Oh, and they send you the CDs automatically.

Ok, it’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s the same thing with terms of service. No one has the time or patience to keep up with every TOS they’ve every “agreed to” by clicking on it. I understand the need for companies to preserve their rights, but a signature as a button click has got to change; it’s too easy.

But I digress. So, sites post terms of service, people don’t read them, then bitch and moan when they actually affect their lives. And, with the “we can change our TOS at any time with or without notice to you” gives companies a lot of power, especially when 99% of their users won’t notice. (As of this second, 5000 10,000 people signed up for the People Against the new Terms of Service, a paltry 0.001% 0.002% of Facebooks purported 500 million total users.)

In a rather pathetic show of protest, I deleted all of my personal photos, changed my profile picture, and deleted anything on there which I would have a problem with Facebook owning.

At least they didnt do it on Friday the 13th

At least they didn't do it on Friday the 13th

Of course, it’s too late now anyway. Had I done this on Saturday (Saturday … the 14th! Insert creepy mood music here), then they would own nothing if I’d just closed my account. Drat. What a different a day makes.

I agree, however, that Facebook should have a “get out of jail free” card which allows you to opt-out (at least give us a few days).

In other fun news, if you do have a problem with it, then you’ve got low-cost, consumer-friendly arbitration to help resolve your issues.

All in all, it’s probably a good idea to be a privacy pessimist: Anything you put online for a free service is likely owned by someone else, and you lose your rights to it.

Things you pay for, however, you should own, and if you don’t own it, then you’re a sucker. Know of “paid” services where you don’t own your content? Comment and let me know.

And, let me predict than in 4 weeks, nothing will have changed. The public’s memory is short, and the internet memory is even shorter. There will be hullabaloo and moaning.

But in the end, most will stay with Facebook and just give it away.

Update: Rebuttal of Facebook CEO’s rebuttal.

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  1. Facebook, TOS, and other good things « EducationPR on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 9:36 am

    […] Razzed, the Consumerist, Nathan Gilliatt, RiverScrap, and even the NY […]