Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Facebook: Indignation, Righteous or Not, Gets Results

"Facebook Does About-Face on Privacy Change"
The Wall Street Journal (February 18, 2009)

"Yielding to pressure from its users and privacy advocates, Facebook Inc. Tuesday night backed away from controversial changes to its terms of use that some had decried as giving the social network too much leeway with users' personal information.

"Just a day after standing by the revisions, the company said it would scrap the new policy and return to its previous terms of service in a notice to its 175 million users on its Web site.

" 'Over the past couple of days, we have received a lot of questions and comments about these updated terms and what they mean for people and their information,' read the statement, which Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg expanded upon in a blog post. 'Because of the feedback we received, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.'..."

Mark Zuckerberg's blog post:
"Update on Terms"
The Facebook Blog (February 17, 2009)

"A couple of weeks ago, we revised our terms of use hoping to clarify some parts for our users. Over the past couple of days, we received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information. Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.

"Many of us at Facebook spent most of today discussing how best to move forward...."

US News and World Report's Katy Marquardt's blog post:
"The Consumerist Gives the Scoop on Facebook Privacy Snafu"
New Money blog, US News and World Report (February 18, 2009)

"If you've logged into Facebook recently, you may have noticed a peculiar "Terms of Use" update at the top of your home page. It essentially says that due to user feedback over the past couple of weeks, the social networking site will return to its previous terms of use.

"Like me, you may wonder what the previous terms of use contained.

"Here's the scoop, courtesy of the Consumerist blog, which initially broke the story thanks to a reader tip:..."

The blog post has several more links, including "10 Facebook Privacy Settings to Know".

And the Moral of the Story is: Think Before You Leap

It looks like Facebook is going to change its TOS anyway: but next time, they'll take their clients into account - and remember that this is the Information Age.

Facts have a way of getting published, now, even if The New York Times doesn't print them.

A favorite online community of mine ( made a set of policy changes a while ago. But BlogCatalog put the changes up for discussion, before enacting them.

Smart move, I think: Took some of the decision-making load off BlogCatalog's staff, and let people in the online community have a hand in crafting the new rules. Pretty close to a win-win situation.

Anyway: Facebook got a dunking in the real world; they'll probably be more careful next time around; and we have another example of how a lot of indignant people can make a difference.

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