Published February 17, 2009
Once a Facebook member, always a member.
The Consumerist blog noticed Sunday that the social-networking giant had quietly made a change to its user Terms of Service (TOS) on Feb. 4.
Facebook now declares that it has a perpetual license to use anything you post to your own Facebook page — even if you terminate your account.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the change as necessary in a blog posting Monday afternoon.
Here's the licensing part of the legalese, which sounds bad enough:
"You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof."
In other words, while it doesn't actually own your photos, scribblings and status updates — you do — Facebook can do whatever it wants with it, whenever it wants, in order to promote itself or create or sell ads.
Theoretically, it can even "license" a picture of your kids for use in a third party's ad campaign.
Most of that has been part of the Facebook Terms of Service for a while. After all, without user-generated content, Facebook would be nothing.
What's been removed is this: "If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however (sic) you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content."
And what's been added is this: "The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service" — after which follows a list of most of the sections on the Terms of Service page.
So even if you decide Facebook isn't for you, the site can still use anything you posted. It's all been archived.
"I'm done with Facebook," declared blogger Ed Champion upon learning of the TOS changes.
He seemed more annoyed at the older blanket license than the new never-say-die part of the legalese — ironic considering that if he'd deleted his account before Feb. 4 his account really would have been gone for good.
In his blog posting, Zuckerberg explained that the language had to be tweaked to resolve a conflict over ownership of messages posted by one Facebook user onto another user's page.
"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," he writes. "Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message."
Zuckerberg then makes a subtle but persuasive legal argument.
"People also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them — like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on — to other services and grant those services access to those people's information," he points out.
"These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who [sic] you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with."