Wake Up to How You Share on the Web

People of Earth: there is no need to panic. Facebook changed it’s terms of service recently. Yes, that’s true. But what it suggests is that most folks don’t really know what they’ve signed on for when using a free service out on the web.

They own your content. No matter what you feel, if you’ve put it on their servers, it’s in their possession. The only way it’s ever otherwise is if the terms say so. Banks own your records. Your health insurance company owns your records. You own nothing. (The effects of this are sometimes talked about by the VRM folks.)

What Facebook is saying, and they have to, is that they have to own your stuff, because if Facebook Connect and other services are going to make your data ubiquitous and shared and spread all around like peanut butter, then they have to have the rights to republish and distribute it. (I might have this a bit wrong. I’m willing to be a bit wrong.)

In Facebook, you surrender your personal data (tons more than you think) every time you add an application to your page. You give up lots in the old terms of service (TOS).

The only thing that I saw had changed was that your content doesn’t die when you quit the service. That’s it. You’ve been giving this all up ahead of time.

My only wish was that Facebook gave you some kind of “get out now” grace to get your stuff offline before that change in the TOS was enforced.

But think about it: every service you use on the web owns your data to some degree. Read the TOS for Google Docs. Read the terms at most sites.

If you’re freaked out by Facebook, go back and take a serious look at ALL the places you’re using on the web and ask yourself what the impact of them owning your stuff really is. It’s not what you think. It’s either worse or a non-issue, depending on how you see things.

**Update: See also this post by OM about telcos selling your data for pennies.**

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