In an about-face following a torrent of online protests, Facebook is backing off a change in its user policies while it figures how best to resolve questions like who controls the information shared on the social networking site.
The changes sparked an uproar after popular consumer rights advocacy blog Consumerist.com pointed them out Sunday, in a post titled "Facebook's New Terms Of Service: 'We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.'"
Facebook has since sought to reassure its users — tens of thousands of whom had joined protest groups on the site — that this is not the case.
Facebook spelled out, in plain English rather than in the legalese that prompted the protests, that it "doesn't claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don't claim to own your information."
Tens of thousands of users joined protest groups on Facebook, saying the new terms grant the site the ability to control their information forever, even after they cancel their accounts.
This prompted a clarification from Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, who told users in a blog post Monday that "on Facebook, people own their information and control who they share it with."
Zuckerberg, who started Facebook while still in college, also acknowledged that a "lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you."
"We never intended to claim ownership over people's content even though that's what it seems like to many people," read a post from Facebook on the bill of rights page.
The latest controversy was not the first between the rapidly growing site and its users over its five-year history.
In late 2007, a tracking tool called "Beacon" caught users off-guard by broadcasting information about their shopping habits and activities at other Web sites.
After initially defending the practice, Facebook ultimately allowed users to turn Beacon off.
A redesign of the site last year also prompted thousands to protest, but in that case Facebook kept its new look.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook is privately held. Microsoft Corp. bought a 1.6 percent stake in the company in 2007 for $240 million as part of a broader advertising partnership.