Be careful with what you put on Facebook.
Even after you hit the delete button on those scathing notes, embarassing photos or drunk texted status updates, they could still come back to haunt you. After all, once you put something on Facebook, you no longer have total control over the material – they now belong to Facebook. Forever.
The fact that Facebook claims control over content posted by users on its site is nothing new, language to that effect has always been in the terms of service (TOS), but this week it was discovered those terms had changed.
Facebook had added a few words here and deleted a few words there changing the TOS to mean they now control all the content you post to or link to the site in perpetuity – even if you delete your account.
Think of it as an online Hotel California, you can check out any time you like, but your data will never leave.
After Monday’s discovery, message boards went wild with discourse and the requisite protest groups sprouted up on Facebook itself.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was forced to take to his blog explaining that the need to take control of the content comes as part of Facebook’s role as conduit between people sharing information online.
“In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want,” he writes. “The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work.”
Leo Laporte is one of the most respected voices of the web and his Facebook status this week simply stated; “Leo Laporte is seriously considering closing his Facebook account due to their new TOS which claims ownership of everything here.”
I haven’t gone that far (yet), but I have stripped my Facebook account down to be little more than a business card for my non-Facebook activities.
Supercereal gives perhaps the most concise view on the whole scandal in a discussion in the comments at The Consumerist: be careful what you post online.
“It comes as a shock to all too many people that (in general) anything you put out there will stay out there. It boggles my mind that people willingly want to post incriminating, embarrassing, and unflattering things to Facebook, in full, public view.”
This is a problem not unique to Facebook, just posting content to a blog or message board or group you need to acknowledge the material could exist on the web forever despite your best efforts to delete it.
The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine let’s you dial up web pages decades old, sure it’s fun to laugh at the gawdy web design of the mid-90s, but tucked amidst the scrolling and blinking banners is content. Content that will live online, forever.
In spy thrillers you’re taught to trust no one, when it comes to putting your content on the web, the opposite is true. You need to trust everyone.
Sharing via Facebook status updates is nothing new. People announce baby arrivals to their friends via status, and in one case a husband divorced his wife with a simple status line update. “Neil Brady has ended his marriage to Emma Brady” was the message Emma discovered last week in was is being called the first Facebook divorce.
Getting to understand Facebook is not only important for users, it’s important for parents. Stanford University is now offering evening classes for parents to get to know Facebook. Whether or not to friend your children, and how to deal with the potential backlash is just one of the topics tackled.
The sharing is just going to become more prevalent as people live more of their life online. CyberSentinel is a maker of parental control software in the UK and conducted a survey discovering teens spend upwards of 31 hours a week plugged in, more than 9 of that on sites like Facebook.
What do you do when your bike gets stolen? You put up flyers and spread the word in the neighborhood. When you’re Lance Armstrong and your one-of-a-kind time trial bike gets stolen, you take to Twitter and tell the world. “There is only one like it in the world therefore hard to pawn it off,” he wrote.
|This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on February 18, 2009.|