In your Facebook
I made up my mind to use Facebook proactively: sharing parts of my life and work with people to whom I feel some sort of connection. This was a few months back, and since then I have not only found it useful, it has been loads of fun too. Of course it can end up being addictive and overwhelming (what with the pokes, nudges, pictures, games, comparisons and God knows what else) so one needs to be a little selective and spend only as much time as one can allocate without letting it take control of one’s life.🙂
Before I got started with Facebook, friends had warned me about some concerns that they had with Facebook’s policies. As I began using it, I didn’t find much to complain about, in terms of obvious spamming or any kind of misuse of my posts or links. There was the odd person that I befriended who turned out to be a bit of an annoyance and so I had to wipe him off my friends list. But nothing for which I could hold Facebook responsible.
Imagine then my disappointment when the news broke a couple of days back, that Facebook had updated its Terms of Service. Now, the service appears to claim that any user’s content is irrevocably theirs, even if the user subsequently closes his/her account.
It isn’t as unsettling as it first appeared, because a lot of discussion has taken place about the kind of ownership of content a social networking site (where users intentionally upload a lot of personal materials to share among – trusted – friends as a matter of routine) ought to have. In response, the site’s managers, including its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have clarified that the modified ToS is basically to cover personal content already shared to friends’ pages, and Facebook does not intend claiming ownership of these things themselves at any time.
What a difference a few words can make! If that is all they meant, then why couch it in such unfriendly and possessive language? I don’t feel at all ashamed or regretful at being upset and annoyed by the wording when I read it. It is full of very legalese terminology, but the intent seems plainly intrusive.
Here is Zuckerberg’s explanation: “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.”
Can’t a legal expert write this out in clear and unambiguous language, if Zuckerberg can express his (service’s) intent so plainly? Why must legal language be so confusing, so often? A lawyer friend of mine (no not Zahid Jamil) told me that legal language is as wordy as it is, in order to express, not clarity, but fullness. A pity then, that Facebook’s ToS ends up expressing avarice.
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