The Facebook terms-of-service-saga raises important issues of ownership and rights when sharing data

http://consumerist.com/5150175/facebooks-new-terms-of-service-we-can-do-anything-we-want-with-your-content-forever
The news that Facebook had updated it’s Terms of Use was quietly mentioned via the Facebook blog on the 4th Feb 2009.  Within a matter of days the news had spread into online campaigns against the move, with tens of thousands of users protesting online. By the 18th Feb NYTimes online reported that Facebook would withdraw its changes.

But, what a mess.  And what a huge dent to the trust Facebook enjoyed – and trust is critical if you want to people to share their information and data.   The lead link on consumerist.com analysed the legal clauses and this article was instrumental in the news gaining the attention it did.

We at CAS had some email exchanges about the subject.  Guat Hong Teh made the following comment bringing the issue into the focus of our work in the CGIAR.  She said:

“It’s easy to relate with applications like Facebook…the analogy to what we do with the centres is probably databases that centres create collating information/data ‘belonging to other people’.”

As the above mentioned NYTimes article says:

“Analysts say that much of the confusion and rancor this week stemmed from the fact that sites like Facebook have created a new sphere of shared information for which there are no established privacy rules.”

This may be true in legal terms, but the actions of the users suggest they already have their own very established idea about who owned the data.  Anyone setting up a data sharing environment should take note and be sure to think carefully not only about terms of use but how those terms might be interpreted.

Thanks to Sebastian Derwisch for sending today’s lead link.

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One response to “The Facebook terms-of-service-saga raises important issues of ownership and rights when sharing data

  1. My data is my my data, and I don’t care what the lawyers say.

    Ok, that’s why I don’t have a facebook account. But how about wordpress, or blog.com, or myspace, or gmail, or hotmail, or twitter, or…?

    Like most issues of pressing importance in the legal arena, we’ll have to let it mature while the lawyers fight it out. At least they’ll get to make some money while doing it.

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