Three Reasons Facebook’s TOS Data Policy Doesn’t Worry Me


Facebook apparently updated their Terms of Service to assert perpetual rights any content you’ve ever shared on its site. This has understandably raised the ire of a lot of people, including Perez Hilton.

On Twitter, I posted this:

Trying to figure out if I care whether Facebook can do whatever it wants with my content or not. Leaning towards not caring.

Three reasons:

  1. I don’t post things that will come back to haunt me
  2. Not convinced there’s any commercial value to my content
  3. The first time Facebook crosses the ethical line will be its last

Let’s do a quick breakdown of each of those reasons.

Not Posting Things that Will Haunt Me

My lifestream on Facebook is…how to put this nicely….sorta boring? I’m a married professional with two young children. I don’t have crazy pictures on there. Well, check that. A high school classmate did post an old picture of me wearing the dress of one of our homecoming princesses. With a tiara and parasol.

But hey, what guy didn’t wear girl’s clothes in high school?

Anyway, as I’ve engaged more with this online world, I’ve grown comfortable with the idea that one day my kids may find old things about me. It’s not that I live my life by the principle of “would if my kids found this?” But I am aware of that.

I also can’t remove things from Google’s cache. So this idea that you can retract something once published is a fallacy anyway. Facebook is just another place where things will live on.

No Commercial Value

Presumably, the only reason Facebook would use the stuff I’ve shared is for commercial purposes. Well GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

Seriously, what will they do with my little notes about and pictures of my kids? My tweet stream which I pipe in as my Status Updates? My Google Reader shares? No one else has monetized that yet.

Perhaps they will include such information in aggregate for data mining purposes. Fine, because that’s not using my content specifically.

If they do figure out a way, I’ll write about their ingenuity most likely.

First Mistake by Facebook Will Be Its Last

Facebook is not some Twitter spam application site, stealing your login and password for nefarious purposes. It’s a commercial entity with designs on being THE social graph platform for the world. I’m sure Facebook is thinking IPO somewhere in the next few years.

I believe this alone will curb excesses by the site. We don’t need to overregulate the hell out of everything. Thus far, Facebook has experimented, but stayed on the right side of the ethical line. I don’t see a lot of changes in that.

But let’s say Facebook does cross the line, abusing the trust of its members in retaining and re-purposing their content? The very first time that happens, there will be an uproar in the blogosphere and Twittersphere. The mainstream press will pick up on it. At that point, state governments and the Federal government will investigate and hold hearings.

This is NOT what a public or wants-to-be-public company wants. If Facebook was some small start-up without its blue chip status, I’d worry more.

What, Me Worry?

That’s why this particular Facebook TOS clause doesn’t worry me.

How about you? Answer the quick poll below:


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About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

14 Responses to Three Reasons Facebook’s TOS Data Policy Doesn’t Worry Me

  1. Hi Hutch,

    I honestly think it is naive to assume that the information that you share or that others share about you will not haunt you. There are so many ways thinkable and the way things work now you have no control over that. Something as harmless as political view, pictures, the things that happen to you in daily life all add up to an online reputation. And that reputation is search, found and used in ways we can’t imagine. And Facebook so far hasn’t shown itself to be trustworthy. Mark Zuckerberg ducks the questions that really matter. How do they intend to exploit our user data, our friends, and our interactions. He talks about privacy wrt others, I can only wonder about privacy wrt Facbook.

    • Alexander – I think the issue of things coming back to haunt you is bigger than Facebook’s TOS on data retention. For instance, say you tweet a political sentiment. Then think twice about it and delete the tweet. You know what? It still shows up in Twitter search. And probably a lot of other places as well. I’m with Kara Swisher and Robert Scoble on this one. Accept that what you publish lives on.

      With regard to Facebook’s policies and trust, perhaps this is a difference between European and American cultures. I’ve got something of a market orientation toward correcting excesses of companies as opposed to a regulatory philosophy. That’s not to say errors won’t be made. But I think there’s an ongoing pressure on companies that have achieved significant public attention to keep things on the up-and-up. And when they do make mistakes, their huge market presence ensures a commensurate reaction, globally.

  2. pico says:

    good for you Hutch…

    as for me:
    – tons of my posts will haunt me 😦
    – there will be more commercial value if the ‘right to use’ extended to Facebook Connect..

    • Pico – do you think this is really about Facebook’s TOS? Or is it an issue that all of us need to deal with, on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.? Interesting thought on commercializing UGC in relation to Facebook Connect. Any thoughts on how that’d work?

  3. @hutch totally agree there are more areas where the lack of control of your privacy is an issue, think Google for a sec. They not only know everything about us but have the instant computational power to leverage what they know about us. That is a scary thought if that were ever misused. But I do not agree that we should just accept that. I prefer to keep educating people until there is enough will to change this to favor the user.

  4. If you’ve posted things that will come back to haunt you later, I don’t know what to say to you.

    Realize that everything you post online will be there forever.

    Think about what you post online.

    What? Me Worry?

    Don’t Worry! Be Happy!!

  5. Syamant says:

    Absolute power corrupts. So does Absolute information.

    There are enough examples of breach of policy and that there needs to be oversight to ensure things remain in control.

    There is already enough about information collection practices that is worrying. Should the customer not have a way of knowing what Google, Facebook, or any other provider has collected?

    If the information is likely to be misused or is being misused, what is the recourse of the individual ? After all a “free” service does not mean that information can be freely used or there is no recourse.

    The damage caused to an individual can be irreparable by an “inadvertent” mistake by the company.

  6. @JD Sorry, but that is a naive way of thinking. It isn’t about the things you may or may not post, it is the interpretation of that information that can do harm. You may post a nice picture of yourself in a Football shirt, and an health insurance company might Google you and realise that you are running health risks. The possibilities are endless, and everyone will use Google to figure out who you are.
    Your friend could post a picture of a party where you were at, etc.etc.

  7. Victoria says:

    History is, sadly, full of examples of situations that were not challenged at the early stages because lots of people said “but it doesn’t affect me”.

  8. Monica says:

    the facebook has you!

  9. Tom Gray says:

    My POV … It doesn’t matter because once you throw it out there, whether sober or otherwise, it’s gone and somebody else can now find and exploit it. If FBs new TOS means you’ll share less then you need to turn off the laptop and unplug the cable because that pretty much precludes throwing any content up on anything online. If you own the IP, you’re protected no matter what FB says but the new paradigm says give away the IP because its what we, as individuals, add to the mix that creates the value that we, hopefully, take to the bank.

    After all, Einstein threw E = MC squared into the mix yet I’m pretty sure that this in no way diminished his value to the world because others were now able to capitalize on his IP. Rather it increased his stature, reputation and authority. It increased his value. The more things change, the more things stay the same. The only thing we really lose is the ability to deny we actually said or did something as there’s everlasting proof. On the other hand, and to quote the immortal President Clinton, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

  10. Joe says:

    Sadly, most people would not have looked closely enough to notice the change in Facebook’s Terms of Service… apparently social networkers are doing a good job of looking out for each other

  11. Pingback: Data Privacy, Data Ownership and Who You Trust « I’m Not Actually a Geek

  12. johnny pierce says:

    when pictures of you start showing up in gay porn website ad’s , you can tell us all again how you dont care that facebook has complete control over all media uploaded to their servers …

    when your 18 year old daughters pix start showing up in meet single desperate lady’s in your area now ad’s … tell us again how you don’t care that facebook has the right do do anything they want without your permission

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