Facebook, terms of use & privacy

The biggest news over the holiday weekend besides the economy was the buzz about Facebook's recent terms of service update. Facebook said it was all about consolidating and clarifying "what people could and could not do" on the site (see CEO Mark Zuckerberg's blog), but the ruckus raisers said it was about what Facebook could and could not do with users' content, CNET's Caroline McCarthy reports. I think the update and the ensuing flap are much more about what users can do with and for their privacy – and society getting used to a bottom-up, user-driven, user-controlled medium. Here are two important takeaways on user privacy: 1) If you want to delete your own account and all the personal info therein, you can certainly do so, but Facebook can't automatically delete information you post in other people's profiles (because it's on their wall, not yours); 2) if by using Facebook you "license" the site in effect to own and share your content, its use of your content is subject to how you set your privacy settings, so users need to pay attention to and proactively set those privacy options; and 3) that last point is even more true now that Facebook Connect "allows users to 'connect' their Facebook identity, friends and privacy to any site" and Facebook of course cannot control or protect user info in other sites. In his blog post, Zuckerberg wrote, "There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with."

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