It's February 16. Do You Know Where Your Facebook Photos are?

On February 4th, the largest social network by all accounts, Facebook, quietly updated it’s terms of service to grant itself an unending and irrevocable license to use all content ever uploaded to its service.

Photo by  pshabThis is fundamentally not all that out of sorts from what most services do when licensing user content, but their lawyers are clearly a a few cards short of a full deck of 52. Consumerist says it best:

Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want.

I’ve begun advising people, clients and otherwise, not to upload any content to Facebook except links. Links merely point to the actual content. Most blogs and content site these days provide a “Share with Facebook” tool that will allow readers (or yourself) submit content to Facebook. The sticky point is that you are not actually uploading the photo, or the video to Facebook itself. Merely an excerpt and thumbnail.

If you run a blog and you use Facebook, drop everything you’re doing and go over to AddThis, sign up to use their free widget and install it. We have it here and it’s a great enabler for readers that allows readers to share with more than just Facebook. Try it on this post.

Unfortunately, there’s no retroactive immunity. Like Congress with the Patriot Act and Stimulus Bill, this thing slid through in the dead of night without so much as a peep and you’re expected to swallow the pill and be happy with it. Facebook never offered you a chance to decline the new TOS, nor did they offer to grandfather content previously uploaded. So feel free to delete stuff you never meant to give away for any constructive or nefarious purpose out there – it’s gone.

I would caution against simply abstaining from Facebook, however. It is the worlds largest social network for a reason and avoiding it will mean a significant cost to your company, brand, etc. However, be wise in how you actually share that content.
— Photo by Pshab

Update: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg clarifies.

One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever. When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created””one in the person’s sent messages box and the other in their friend’s inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear

-snip-

We still have work to do to communicate more clearly about these issues, and our terms are one example of this. Our philosophy that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant. A lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you. Over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler.

Whoops. Facebook fumbles again.

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