Facebook's "About Face"

(please note: this vid briefly touches on the complex topic of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM), and does not give justice to the complexity of this theory or undertaking, nor was it meant to. VRM is a corollary to some of the issues facing FB with regards to the topic of consumer control over their own valuable data, and is only mentioned here as a brief note).

Well, after a firestorm of activity yesterday that bubbled up from the blogosphere around Facebook's change to their TOS, Facebook announced today a return to the old Terms of Service. They posted an announcement on the Facebook homepage that reads:

"Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities."

While this certainly is another display of the power of social media and the voice of the people to drive change....there are still several lingering questions I have that this "about face" does not appease, largely because all of this is clever misdirection by Facebook's PR team. Some questions:

1. Firstly, why didn't Facebook notify users of the change to the TOS in the first place, through a homepage notice like the one they posted today recanting the changes to said TOS?

2. Facebook made a point to address the issues in the new TOS from the standpoint of who "owns" User Content. They clarified that Facebook does not "own" User Content. But ownership IS NOT THE POINT. The unnerving thing about the new TOS was how absolute and all-encompassing the LICENSING agreement was. To put it another way, Facebook was mandating a perpetual license for UGC, meaning they can do whatever they want for as long as they want, and so can the content owner. Read:

"You hereby grant Facebook an 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), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof."

Facebook then went on to say that they apologize and that the new TOS was only intended to clarify the old TOS. This is hardly satisfactory. The new TOS, again, was so far-reaching that is was a clear departure from the old TOS, aimed at asserting an amazing amount of control over the use of User Content and data. Blogger Amanda French also took the time to compare that new TOS with other popular services' TOS's including Flickr and MySpace, and concluded that Facebook's new TOS was extraoridnarily far-reaching compared to these others'.

And lastly, Facebook....why can't you simply explain what your intention was with the new TOS licensing agreement? There is such a stark contrast between the new and the old that simple "clarification" is certainly not all there is to the story.

And one more time....this is not about ownership. Data use is just as important as data ownership and this licensing issue has yet to be explained.

Eveybody's weigh-in?

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