Facebook, Sixth most populous kingdom on earth

Quoting Mark Zuckerberg from his offical response to the Facebook’s Change of Terms of Services (TOS) controversy,

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.

The reason why I am referring to Facebook as a Kingdom is because it acted very much like a monarch by changing the TOS unilaterally. Even though it is within Facebook’s rights to change the TOS, it seemed like a Royal decree saying “If you post it, we own it. “. Further, they did that without any impunity or an iota of concern to its 175 million users’ views. The move was really dumb considering Facebook’s so called 35 billion dollar valuation is totally dependent on user generated content.

I understand that people’s social maps and networks can get quite complex .When a user deletes his/her Facebook profile, removing all the user info completely may not be possible due to technical reasons. For starters ,the underlying software system might not have been designed to perform such a scenario. Instead, if Facebook had modified it’s TOS to something like the below, then there would not have been such a big uproar.

Upon termination of Facebook service, Facebook will make an attempt to remove user information to best of its ability. But we cannot guarantee that all the related information will be removed. Users should be aware of this before posting any information.

Instead they went overboard with their changes.

The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.

Now the TOS causes a real concern. Sometimes, when you mess up on a massive scale, the best way to salvage the situation is to accept the mistake and say “We are sorry. We screwed up. We sincerely apologize for our indiscretion and we will make every attempt to remedy the situation”. But that didn’t happen. Instead Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO came up with this mambo-jumbo,

Still, the interesting thing about this change in our terms is that it highlights the importance of these issues and their complexity. People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. 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.

Did anybody understand what he said? Or is it just me!

Social networking sites are like banks. They create value only if people create content or deposit money (in case of banks). If the service provider sabotages customers’ trust, I don’t see a sustainable future for that particular business. Who knows, Mark Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing might take a “U” turn now. I don’t know how others view the whole episode But I have lost my trust in Facebook.

On a lighter note,check out the geekandpoke cartoon I found relevant to this controversy.


2 Responses

  1. coffee says:

    It makes no sense that Facebook would risk messing up a good thing by edging in on people’s intellectual property. They had people’s trust and then they go and risk losing it; not smart.

  2. John says:

    It will be interesting to see if there is any long-term “fall out” to their customer base due to this recent snafu.

Leave a Reply