Kara Swisher

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Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Cries Uncle on ToS Snafu: The Entire Backtracking Blog Post

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Late tonight, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a blog entry, saying the popular social-networking site would “return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.”

Facebook has been embroiled in a controversy this week about its Terms of Service–essentially a Web site’s rules that users must abide by while using its online service–after recent changes gave it more sweeping rights over customers’ content and privacy.

While BoomTown in no way thinks Facebook had any intention of asserting copyright ownership over intellectual property posted by users, the language was strong enough to make such a thing possible and went much further than other sites on the issue.

My guess: It was more likely a case of lawyers gone wild.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg said in a post yesterday that the service had made the changes in the first place in order to archive posts and other content users had shared with each other, even after such material was deleted.

“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,” he wrote in his first post.

To be fair, Zuckerberg also had noted: “Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with.”

But the fact that Facebook had still given itself such wide-ranging rights over content, whatever the reason, had caused a nuclear explosion online among users, privacy advocates, content owners and the media.

Thus, in full backtracking mode tonight, Zuckerberg returned Facebook’s ToS to its previous version, pending new wording. He also said a new “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” (you can join here) was on the way and asked for user input.

Viva La Revolución! I vote for no more SuperPoking!

Here is the whole blog and here is a link to it on Facecook too:

Update on Terms

by Mark Zuckerberg

Today at 10:17 pm

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. One approach would have been to quickly amend the new terms with new language to clarify our positions further. Another approach was simply to revert to our old terms while we begin working on our next version. As we thought through this, we reached out to respected organizations to get their input.

Going forward, we’ve decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don’t plan to leave it there for long.

More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren’t just a document that protect our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service.

Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.

You have my commitment that we’ll do all of these things, but in order to do them right it will take a little bit of time. We expect to complete this in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we’ve changed the terms back to what existed before the February 4th change, which was what most people asked us for and was the recommendation of the outside experts we consulted.

If you’d like to get involved in crafting our new terms, you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we’ve created—Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=69048030774). I’m looking forward to reading your input.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik