Rewriting Facebook's Terms of Service

Facebook took the plunge into social network democracy. Photo by Samuel CoxFacebook launched on Thursday a campaign polling users over its new draft Terms of Service (TOS). Applauded by advocates and seen as a revolutionary move toward democratic social networking, Facebook's new campaign is making its way on the Internet. But what are the new TOS all about?

Facebook created virtual Town Halls where users can comment and vote for 30 days (closing March 29) on the proposed draft Terms of Service. Two groups have been created: the Proposed Facebook Principles group, which highlights the rights and responsibilities of Facebook and its community and the Proposed Statement of Rights & Responsibilities group, which looks into the highly debated problem over who actually owns your content.

To refresh your memory, Facebook updated its terms of service (those long pages of small text that too many of us almost never read) on February 4. The changes went unnoticed, only until a consumer-oriented blog attacked them, sparkling an Internet-wide debate over why should the social network own your content. Shortly after, Facebook reverted to its old TOS, hence now polling users on what changes should be made.

Inside the Changed TOS

The most radical and noteworthy change in Facebook's proposed TOS addresses the concern of last week's debate -- who should own the content you post on Facebook. The new terms read: "You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, including information about you and the actions you take ("content")." That's a significant change from the previous grant of "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), [...]"

Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

So in the new draft TOS, by signing up to Facebook "You give us permission to use, store, and share content you post on Facebook or otherwise make available to us ("post"), subject to your privacy and application settings," which basically covers the fact that if you put for example a picture on Facebook you have to grant them the right to use in order for you to share it with you friends.

"You may delete your content or your account at any time with the understanding that removed information may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be generally available to other users), and that content shared with others may remain until they delete it." That seems reasonable, considering that Facebook backs up its database on multiple servers and once you delete your account, the content you uploaded won't be "generally" available to other users.

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