Posts Tagged ‘Terms of Service’

Facebook Not So Dirty After All?

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Alright.  Not to speak too soon here, but maybe I was wrong about Facebook yesterday.  And If so, I’ll gladly eat my words.

Read this: Results of the Inaugural Facebook Site Governance Vote

As always, the proof will be in the pudding.  But this sounds to me like FB is going to go with the majority of the 0.32% of active users that voted — and adopt the new user agreement (tossing out the Evil Terms of Service).

While there’s talk in the post about their disappointment at the low turnout, they do acknowledge this is a Faceboook First (as well as an internet first), and are considering lowering the 30% threshold necessary for any future vote to be binding.

First of all, I offer my non-binding, conditional apology to Facebook.  Maybe they’re actually interested in protecting their users’ rights after all.

Second, I still maintain this vote was not nearly as transparent as FB believes it was.  The language was confusing.  The voting period was too short.  And there should’ve been more user notification (eg. ‘Hey! You haven’t voted yet! Only one day left to vote!’) if they wanted this whole process to actually be more democratic.

Still, from the looks of it, at least their heart is in the right place…

Facebook is So Dirty

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

I’ve never liked Mark Zuckerberg.  He just seems like kind of a jerk (and, most likely, a thief).

I thought maybe he was turning over a new leaf with this whole rollback of Facebook’s Terms of Service (the ones nobody liked — hereafter called the Evil Terms of Service, or ETOS).


Turns out Facebook is pretty sneaky after all.

Yes.  They put their new Terms of Service to a vote. And if it passes they will adopt the terms.


1) FB will not adopt the terms unless at least 30% of active users participate in the vote (which roughly equates to 60 million users).

2) They gave these active users a week to read 1100 lines of legalese in order to make their ‘informed decision’ about which of the terms sounded more appealing.

3) I (and I’m definitely not alone in this) thought that FB had rolled back their Evil TOS (ETOS) when their users revolted back in February.  But if one compares the two documents being voted on, the terms marked as Current include the ETOS language that got everyone mad:

By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

Which basically says ‘if you post it, we own it.’

I know a lot of my friends didn’t think to vote because they thought the vote was between the the OLD terms of service (pre-September ’08) and some NEW version — that the offending ETOS version wasn’t even on the table.

It was confusing.  And I think it was deliberately confusing.

Now, I read it.  I read enough of it to know that the ‘current terms’ were the offending ETOS and the ‘new terms’ were less bad, and cast my vote accordingly.  But anyone who believes this is some sort of democratic process, just because Faccebook says it is, might want to read between the lines.  I’m sure Facebook is counting on most of their users either a) voting for the current terms thinking they were the old terms or b) not bothering to vote because they thought the ETOS had been repealed in February.

It is, no doubt, in Facebook’s interest to have their internal ETOS adopted.  If they own all of the content on their service, just think what they could do with it.  The fact that they’re hemorrhaging money wouldn’t seem like quite so much of a problem if they suddenly walked into a worldwide distribution license to ALL OF THE CONTENT on Facebook.

I think Facebook is being manipulative to try to get what they want, cloaking misdirection and miscommunication in user apathy.

But seriously Facebook.  If you want to take away my rights to my own content, just do it — and own up to your users’ wrath.  But don’t try to make it look like I asked you to take away my rights.

For more, check out Chris Dannen’s column at Fast Company

UPDATE: Alright, some of this sounds like conspiracy, but maybe we’ll just call Thursdays ‘Conspiracy Day’ here at Geek Chic and let you decide for yourself:

1) Facebook’s voting closed at noon PDT.  But almost every news source thought it was closing at midnight.  Did the Washington Post not check their facts this morning?  Or did Facebook change the cutoff because the press was starting to pick up the story?

2) Some users claim they didn’t hear there was a vote (to which, we have to say, ignorance is never really a great argument for a re-count, but still…)