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Facebook Faces Privacy Fears

Reading two things in particular got the wheels turning in my head about Facebook's terms of service controversy, leading both to yesterday's blog post and today's column.

(Well, actually, another significant factor in the column's genesis was my editor asking me to set aside the piece I'd been working on to write about Facebook instead.)

One of those things was blogger Amanda French's insightful comparison of Facebook's new user agreement with those of six other popular media-sharing and social-networking sites.


The other was the "People Against the new Terms of Service" group set up by Facebook users to protest the changes. The discussions and comments there featured no small amount of yammering, but also some reasoned, thoughtful discussion -- see, for instance, the back-and-forth about how to craft a one-line counter-claim to the new terms that Facebook users could add to their own profiles.

As I was considering how non-lawyers might be able to untangle Facebook's licensing thicket on their own, another thought hit me -- Facebook and any other company with a sufficiently high profile will get hit with frivolous, dingbat lawsuits no matter how airtight its terms of service seem. So it might as well write those terms in language that normal human beings can grasp.

That's what I hope Facebook's new "Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" group can accomplish. I suggest one way for the company to move towards that goal in today's article. It's unclear if Facebook will follow that approach, but at least it's inviting some of its toughest critics to help rewrite its terms -- two of the admins of this new group led the "People Against the new Terms of Service" group.

What's your take on Facebook's response so far? Do you think the company is making a genuine effort to get your input, or do you feel that it's just trying to paper over this controversy? Post your thoughts in the comments -- then stop by Web chat today, starting at 2 p.m.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 19, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , Privacy  
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Facebook's TOS seems largely irrelevant since it doesn't appear to apply to any of the hundreds of 'applications' in use all over Facebook.

Every time you go to add one of those apps, it asks you to accept a NEW TOS for some fly by night widget developer, who now has access to all your Facebook stuff you thought your protected.

At least that's how I read it. Am I wrong?

(I have a FB profile, but zero external apps)

Posted by: JkR- | February 19, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

That was MY take on all those external Facebook thingies that folks are wanting to have you join in 23 7/8 hour of the day. Each one says you will be giving away the keys to the cookie jar and, indeed, the jar along with it, IF you accept the membership in the group of the moment.

I have no membership in those for that reason.

Posted by: RHMathis | February 19, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

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