Facebook's about-face on terms of use changes

Social networking site drew heavy criticism
February 18, 2009 5:24:11 AM PST
After a growing protest, Facebook is doing an about-face.

Earlier in February, and with little notice, Facebook changed the site's terms of use agreement. The changes went unnoticed until the popular consumer rights advocacy blog Consumerist.com pointed out the changes Sunday.

On Wednesday morning, the following notice was found on Facebook as users logged on:

"Terms of Use Update
Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. "

"Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerbergstated in a blog article posted on the social networking service. " 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."

In an article from Tuesday, the Associated Press reported: Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, told users in a blog post Monday that "on Facebook, people own their information and control who they share it with." However, when someone shares a photo, a message or a status update telling friends what they are up to at the moment, they first need to grant Facebook a license so the site can pass that information along to authorized friends, Zuckerberg said. Without the license, he said, Facebook wouldn't be able to help people share information.

Zuckerberg had said the new terms are necessary to reflect the fact that friends may retain a copy of that message or other information once a user shares it with them.

Zuckerberg did acknowledge that Facebook, which boasts 175 million users around the world, still has "work to do to communicate more clearly" about how information is shared on the site.

The rapidly growing site has had several run-ins with users over its short history.

In late 2007, for example, a tracking tool called "Beacon" caught users off-guard by broadcasting information about their shopping habits and activities at other Web sites. After initially defending the practice, Facebook ultimately allowed users to turn Beacon off.

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