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Facebook Says Users Will Have Say in Terms of Service Changes

Kim Hart

To regain the trust of Facebook users, chief executive Mark Zuckerburg said today that the social network would let users have a say in any changes to the site's terms of service in the future.

If Facebook considers making a change to the terms of service that governs how user information can be used and who owns it, the company says it will open it up to users for comments in order to gauge the level of concern with the change. And if there is a significant amount of discussion and debate about certain provisions, Zuckerburg said decisions will be made by a vote. Read the specifics here.

The move, which Zuckerburg calls "unprecedented," comes a few weeks after user outrage broke out when Facebook changed it's terms of service regarding ownership of the photos, comments, and other personal data stored on the site.

(Maybe the company was also reading Faster Forward; columnist Rob Pegoraro suggested Facebook let users have a say in any changes.)

"The big lesson for us from this is that we underestimated the sense of ownership Facebook users feel over the site because of the personal nature of the information they share," he said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon. "We should have been communicating about these things more broadly."

Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice president of communications and public policy, said it's ironic that "some of the blogs that were vehemently critical of our terms of service had provisions that were as broad if not more broad in terms of terms of service," in response to some skepticism expressed by reporters.

The tension between Facebook and its 175 million users has risen before. When Facebook introduced its Beacon feature, which broadcast users' online purchases to friends, it met the wrath of Facebookers who felt the new product violated their privacy and ruined gift surprises. Some users were similarly offended when Facebook added its NewsFeed feature.

Zuckerburg acknowledged that the most recent change in terms of service was not as thought-out as it should have been. The change came when the company tried to shorten its governing document to five pages from 15 pages, "and in doing so we made a lot of mistakes."

"The silver lining in all this is that people feel a very visceral connection to the rights they have on the service," he said.

Will user input make big improvements to Facebook's terms of service? What do you think?

By Kim Hart  |  February 26, 2009; 3:00 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
Previous: Obama Tech Adviser Says More to Come on Broadband Push | Next: Facebook Creating Council of Users

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After a careful reading of Zuckerberg's cautiously worded statement, I realize he has no intention of doing anything other than what he first said he'd do. He implies, "from now on" which means the content he now has is owned by himself and his partners. I am considering removing myself from FB for good.

Posted by: mymymichl | March 3, 2009 3:14 PM

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