Facebook Reverts to Old TOS. Never Owned You, Just Licensed You


Well the firestorm over Facebook's new terms of service which everyone (including us) read as Facebook owning your ass when, in reality, they were only licensing it is over...for now. The social network, in reaction to the outcry, has reverted to its old TOS for the time being.

A message on the homepage 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."

Writing on Socialized, Alisa Leonard-Hansen explains how it was never about ownership but about licensing and delves into a few other issues surrounding the use of people's information online. She's written several other informative pieces on the topic here and here.

by Steve Hall    Feb-18-09   Click to Comment   
Topic: Policy, Social   

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Hey Steve, thanks for the nod....I do want to point out though, that just because this wasn't about ownership doesn't mean its ok. If you look at the licensing agreement proposed in the new TOS, it is an all-encompassing perpetuity license that essentially gives them the ability to do whatever they want with your data, as if they owned it.

We have to remember the data use is as important as data ownership.

The frustrating thing for me about this whole thing is Facebook's attention to the "ownership" piece...its almost misdirection. Ok, so we know they don't own the data, but lets talk about what that new licensing agreement actually meant (read: anything they want with your data).

Posted by: alisa leonard-hansen on February 18, 2009 1:13 PM

I think Alisa is close, but still misses the point. It's not about Facebook owning content, or even an individual's data, but instead about building a prospect database -- and keeping those prospects forever.

Facebook is in reality building a marketing *list* of 175 million people, their demos, product likes, and most important, connections to other similar people. It doesn't care a wit about your photos, it wants *you* and *your relationships* which it can sell to advertisers. If I am best friends with Steve Hall, there is a good chance that Steve will respond to advertising offers that I've taken in the past. Direct marketers have done this for years, for example to predict which houses on a street have oil heat instead of gas if they can determine that the house next door gets oil deliveries. Houses, and people, tend to cluster into similar groups with similar purchase behaviors. Every soul on Facebook can be mapped to their friends, and their friends have X% higher response rates based on observing that first person.

Now, just as Experian would be upset if it had to delete 10% of the names from its lists every year, Facebook doesn't want a future in which it has to stop using prospect data anytime someone quits its service. Eventually Facebook will face churn, and to be forced to delete customer data is removing marketing gold from the vault. Even if I leave, if Facebook can retain the data on my likes and connections, it can extrapolate to the former connections of mine on Facebook -- and predict their behavior in relationship to my own. House No. 23 on the street may no longer be an oil customer, but if you can remember it, you're still able to predict Houses No. 21 and 25 next door probably use heating oil, too.

So come on people, look at the advertising potential -- and admit it. Facebook is simply building a very nice marketing list, and it doesn't want to delete any names from the file.

Posted by: Ben Kunz on February 18, 2009 8:57 PM

@Ben Kunz.... how did I miss the point? I'm precisely saying that this is not about ownership at all...also, if you read my follow up posts, or read this post i did for Mashable, you would know that what you mention about a sellable database of consumer trend data is EXACTLY what I am saying:


and my Mashable post on the subject:


Posted by: alisa leonard-hansen on February 19, 2009 10:53 AM