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Opt-ions Three

Continuing the conversation about the blogosphere and social media.


Image: Ali T via Flickr

Do you remember Friendster?  It seems to have morphed into a gaming site, but a long time ago, it was Facebook for everyone who couldn’t get onto Facebook because they were too old.

Sites — like restaurants or stores — open and close all the time.  If they’re part of our daily world, it makes us sad because it signals change.  Though if we rarely frequented the site or restaurant or store, it doesn’t really factor beyond a sigh.

But it should.  At least, it should when it comes to social media sites where we have an account.

When a restaurant closes, it may sell off its tables and ovens and cookware.  When a store closes, it may sell off its merchandise.  And when an online site closes, well, if it’s in their terms of service, they can technically sell off… you.  Your data.  Your IP or intellectual property, which are your words and images.

Let’s take the case of Facebook, a solid giant who is going nowhere soon.  Maybe.  I mean, we have no clue if they’re going nowhere soon.  They could announce tomorrow that the site is underwater, and they’re going to bail.

What you upload right now to Facebook exists under the rules of the existing site, which are also subject to change at any time.  Even if they don’t change, you have given Facebook (and a lot of other sites have this caveat too) a transferable license to your “IP” or intellectual property.

By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement, as updated from time to time in accordance with Section 14 below.

  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

To put that in simple English: we can use now or in the future anything you upload to Facebook.  If you delete it, it’s not really gone.  And in case you were wondering, Facebook will not officially give a range to a “reasonable period of time” when asked.  Which most likely means, “indefinitely.”

The part that gives me pause is the concept of transferability.  Because while Facebook may afford me certain privacy settings, what if Facebook enters a time period when they are trying to make their company solvent after financial collapse and they sell off their archive?  That is what happens with restaurants and stores — they sell off their merchandise.  And in this case, our data and our IP is what would be for sale.  Our data is what makes Facebook valuable in the first place.  What if the new site doesn’t believe in privacy settings, and everything I wrote over the years and every image I uploaded is suddenly made available to the public?  And what if this new company removes the delete button.  What then?

Is this far-fetched.  Yes.  But does it inform the way I use the site: absolutely.  The only site I trust is my blog, and that is because I own it.  I know it’s public.  And I take comfort in knowing that boundary definitively.  Whereas I don’t really know the boundaries with Facebook.  They could be here, they could be there… and it’s the not knowing that makes me uncomfortable.

There are those who say that our data or IP shouldn’t be the tradeoff for using a site like Facebook, but here’s the thing.  We’re not owed a Facebook.  We’re not owed a free Facebook where they host us and pay for our space on their servers and get nothing in return.  Restaurants don’t give us food out of the goodness of their hearts and stores don’t hand us jeans just because they like the cut of our jib.  They charge us.  And in the case of Facebook, the free site isn’t really free even if they never ask for money.  They ask you to pay in your data and IP.  You pay by giving up your privacy.

Do you ever consider the impermanence of sites?  Would you be comfortable right now with everything you’ve uploaded to Facebook if they sell their archives in the future and everything behind privacy settings suddenly becomes public?


1 Life Breath Present { 06.19.14 at 11:21 am }

In the 4 years that I’ve had a Facebook account, I know I’d be comfortable if my posts and images were given/sold to another company. What I wouldn’t be comfortable with is changes to privacy. Overall, I think Facebook shows a bit of life, change, and growth – at least my account. My account is pretty private because I don’t want to completely randomly be found. I’ve had that happen once (before Facebook and before I was on Facebook). That instance slightly haunts me. I feel uncomfortable not having a pretty good idea of the level of access that some may have. Maybe this lends to an issue or two I still need to work on, I don’t know. What I do know is that as I grow more and more involved in social media and the online world through my blog, I become slightly more comfortable – not share everything all the time comfortable, but less fearful and more aware.

Besides, at the end of the day, I know I truly have no control over anything because the government has it all no matter what….:/

2 a { 06.19.14 at 11:31 am }

I’m pretty OK with it…but I don’t put a lot out there. I do belong to a secret group that discusses politics and current events, but I rarely say anything that I wouldn’t say to people in person. If all my comments there were published, I don’t see anyone being surprised by my positions on things.

I posted one of your articles to said discussion group the other day, and one of the IT-type guys was surprised that I would object to an app accessing your information when you clearly have your privacy settings quite closed. I surmised that you don’t allow apps much access, so for the apps to find a way around that setting (via someone else’s permission) is sneaky and underhanded. Since he’s an IT guy, I guess he’s used to having the back-door access, and found it to be not a big deal. So, there’s some perspective from another view…

3 andy { 06.19.14 at 11:55 am }

My personal rule for what I post online – FB, Blogs, elsewhere, is would I be okay with any of the Mothers in my life seeing/knowing this? And there are a fair number of Mother’s in my life… I have 2, Hilary has 1, Liam has 3 – then there are Grandmothers and Godmothers and women I think of as Mothers… So anything I post has already gone through my internal check for okayness.

4 Mali { 06.19.14 at 8:50 pm }

Like many of the others, I put very little on FB, and have very strict privacy settings. I restrict one or two “friends” (former colleagues and specific family members) from certain postings, but usually decide that if I want to restrict something, then I probably shouldn’t post it at all. I am very comfortable with what I have on FB. And I thank you for keeping me aware of privacy issues, and keeping me alert.

Because you’re right. We’re not owed a free FB. And that makes us the product.

5 Claire Purkis { 06.19.14 at 10:27 pm }

I was thinking today that there must be a way to memorialize parts of my posts on FB, esp as I am one of those ppl that post pics of their kids. I know that’s not smart at all. I like the sweet comments and banter mostly a outs my kids and wish I could save those posts for them. For some reason, probably because their biological origins are from donors, we have placed a high value in collecting information, photos, ruce for them in their own albums. I will print out my blog posts that are about them too. Poor Harry, he’s far behind in the post stakes. Must remedy that. But I was wondering if you knew how one would save ones FB statuses in a document or print out. Maybe I should just have my own domain blog and have ppl subscribe. Then I would by rely on FB’s privacy rules or lack thereoff. Thanks for the edifying post on this!

6 knottedfingers { 06.23.14 at 9:25 pm }

I think of the impermanence often. I wonder ‘What next’ a lot. BEcause most of us went from myspace to facebook. Google + tried but failed…. so really…. what will be next. What is the next facebook and how will it connect us? Will it be better? Easier for those with disabilities to use? Every few months I use Social Print and print off my fb and instagram photos. They send amazing 4×4 photos of every photo you’ve uploaded to facebook. You choose which photos you want. It’s really nice and it’s a way for me to get prints when most of my stuff is digital now. I hope in whatever way things change someone will be smart enough to keep the photo thing going

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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