Who’s in control?

Posted: February 18, 2009 in social media

In social media, the company does not define the rules.  The community does.  But in social media, the company is just as much a member of the community as the consumer.

I opened up my Facebook page this morning to see the following update at the top.

fbterms21

When I went to visit the Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Group, I found the following:

This group is for people to give input on Facebook’s terms of use. These terms are meant to serve as the governing document for how the service is used by people around the world.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Here are responses to some of the things you’ve written below:

1. You own your information. Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content.

2. Facebook doesn’t claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don’t claim to own your information.

3. We won’t use the information you share on Facebook for anything you haven’t asked us to. We realize our current terms are too broad here and they make it seem like we might share information in ways you don’t want, but this isn’t what we’re doing.

4. We will not share your information with anyone if you deactivate your account. If you’ve already sent a friend a message, they’ll still have that message. However, when you deactivate your account, all of your photos and other content are removed.

5. We apologize for the confusion around these issues. We never intended to claim ownership over people’s content even though that’s what it seems like to many people. This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.

And links to the following blog posts:

http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=54746167130
http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=54434097130

There is an issue of privacy of information here and an issue of control.

Slowly, the balance of power is evening itself out.  I used to think it was a shift of power from the corporation to the consumer, and it is, but not a complete shift, I am seeing the beginnings of a more even playing field, where consumers and corporations each have a voice and can create a more mutually beneficial relationship.

The rules change from community to community, but a common thread I’ve noticed is that the community will create the rules and members expect transparency above all else.   In order for the community to survive, the rules need to evolve into something everyone can abide by, not what one party thinks is important.  But sometimes you need a starting point.  The current Facebook Terms of Use are a launching pad.  Do users like the current terms?  It doesn’t appear so.  Would users have come up with it on their own in the early beginnings?  Probably not.  Regardless of whether Facebook had intent on controlling the rights to your personal information, they’re playing nice and engaging the community in this next development round.  It remains to be seen what they do with the feedback, being a social networking site, I would hope they lead by example and follow through on a document that addresses the concerns of the community as best as they can (see the challenge of data portability).

What do you think?

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Comments
  1. Mike says:

    Good article – I seen this on “the hour” last night. Facebook is nothing more than a marketing tool for corporate america now. Choose your demographic & marketing to each particular group.

    Strombo brought up points about posting material that a person may want to use for their own copyright (photos & stories). The question becomes if an individual wanted to write a book or publish photos Facebook owns the rights from the way the contract (that nobody ever reads – just pushes agree) reads. Intellectual Property of users is now property of Facebook – sounds like a job with most big corporations…

    The irony is to protest the new regime – a facebook group was started.

  2. Joe says:

    the fact that Facebook change their TOS back so quickly is like an admission that they knew they were wrong

  3. Wendy Peters says:

    Yes, it does come across as an acknowledgment that they were wrong. I think it’s another lesson in learning to engage your community before you make any changes. You can’t please all the people all the time, but if they feel like they’ve had some input along the way at least and you are being as transparent as possible about the intentions behind the changes, I think people will respect you more for it. Nobody likes to have the wool pulled over their eyes. But I think the driver for changing them back wasn’t the fact that they were admitting to doing something wrong, I think it was that they had angered a lot of their users and the consequences of not acting on that were substantial. That’s the part I don’t trust, that the change may have happened not because of genuine desire to do right by the community, but by the potential hazard coming out of the reaction from the community. It’s more like they were forced to change them back. I like that the community has that much power to keep the company honest, but to me it’s still the nature of a lot of companies to try and get away with what they can.

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