what’s the big deal?

July 12th, 2007

So what’s the big deal about Facebook? I remember checking it out a while ago and thinking, Uh, no, I don’t think so. Then today I read this almost glowing review. And then in the comment thread of that review somebody posts a link to this, which links Facebook to various branches of the US government, including the Department of Defence, the DARPA (who?) the Office of Information Awareness (who?) and the Central Intelligence Incomptetence Agency. But apparently Facebook is one of these Big New Things that anybody who is anybody joins and then everybody networks and…. whatever. Anyway, I’m having another look at this Facebook thing to see what the fuss is about.


Well, so I’m wading through the legalese in the Facebook terms of service, and, as I was warned by that not so positive article about Facebook linked to above, the one that ties Facebook up with the CIA:

When you post User Content to the Site, you authorize and direct us to make such copies thereof as we deem necessary in order to facilitate the posting and storage of the User Content on the Site. By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

[emphasis mine]


By including a Share Link, Online Content Provider automatically grants, and represents and warrants that it has the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use the Share Service in order to link to, use, copy, publish, stream, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part), summarize, and distribute the content, links and other materials of any kind residing on any web pages on which Online Content Provider places the Share Link.

[no emphasis needed here]

So, basically, Facebook owns everything. Clauses like this in the terms of service do not do much to persuade me to sign up. It doesn’t get any better by pointing out that any personal data I may enter into Facebook will be transferred to and processed within the US, not given the practices of the Bush administration. If they cared so much about their users’ privacy, they’d have all of their servers in Canada and do all the processing of data their. And then having claimed ownership of any and all information, data or whatever else you put on Facebook or on any site of yours on which you post one of their dinky little “share buttons” or whatever they called it, they turn around and, in addition to the usual “anything bad that happens could not possibly be our fault” disclaimer, they say:

The Company is not responsible or liable in any manner for any User Content or Third Party Applications, Software or Content posted on the Site or in connection with the Service, whether posted or caused by users of the Site, by Facebook, by third parties or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Site or the Service. Although we provide rules for user conduct and postings, we do not control and are not responsible for what users post, transmit or share on the Site and are not responsible for any offensive, inappropriate, obscene, unlawful or otherwise objectionable content you may encounter on the Site or in connection with any User Content or Third Party Applications, Software or Content. The Company is not responsible for the conduct, whether online or offline, of any user of the Site or Service.

Right. So you claim ownership of any material anybody posts to your site and any material on any site that has a “share button”, but you refuse to take responsibility for it. That seems mature to me.

You know, the more I read their terms of service, the more Facebook persuades me to not sign up. I don’t think I’m even going to bother with their privacy policy or code of conduct. I think I’ll just remain out of fashion and out-dated and not facebooked for the time being.

4 Responses to “what’s the big deal?”

  1. John Says:

    Facebook started as a thing for university students in the States and grew from there. There was an article in The Guardian just recently about MySpace being for poor people and Facebook being for the rich ones. I think it’s like a more dynamic version of Spaces. You’ve got the blog, but you’ve also got “friends”, which might mean 25,000 people you’ve never met, don’t know, and wouldn’t want to.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Dammit John, could you not wait until I’d finished updating that post?

    Yeah, Rebecca Mackinnon’s post went into the history of Facebook a little. Didn’t really inspire me to join up. And now having taken another look at Facebook I’m even less inspired to join up.

  3. Brendan Says:

    I’m not particularly bothered by the ToS, mainly because I tend to assume that anything I do online is outside of my control anyway. Then again, I never used my Facebook account until a couple of months ago when people started joining en masse. It seems to have some kind of critical mass now — I’m getting messages from people I knew in preschool.

    It’s kind of cool in a way, but mostly it strikes me as little more than a glorified Rolodex and a fun way to waste some time. Will be writing about it for my next Chinese blog post.

  4. wangbo Says:

    What bugs me about the ToS is that they seem to claim ownership of anything you put on Facebook and anything on any site of yours that links to Facebook, but they refuse to take any responsibility for that content.

    Otherwise I make the same assumption about anything I put online as you do, and although I was shocked (shocked! I tell you) to see how easy it is to find this blog by googling “Chris Waugh” (well, there aren’t that many Waughs around, anyway), that doesn’t bother me.

    Anyway, never owned a Rolodex, and I see no need to sign up for a glorified one. Now, if it were actually going to be useful for helping me break out of this English teaching scam/game, I might reconsider…