I’ve been feeling increasingly uncomfortable about my membership of Facebook. It does perform a useful service, and I’ve been delighted to reconnect with college friends and see pictures of their lovely kids.
But… their Terms of Service lay claim to ownership of all the pictures of my son I’ve shown to my friends.
By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.
Not only do they lay claim to the images of my son, but they also claim an “irrevocable, perpetual” right to sell those rights to anyonne else. Cornflakes boxes could be adorned with his grinning mug and this contract would have it that I couldn’t prevent it if Facebook had sold the rights to Mr Kellog.
For a fuller, non-US, consideration of the Facebook terms of service take a look here.
And now, if the threat from Facebook itself to my info weren’t enough, we have Famous-For-Nerds Robert Scoble trying out an automatic Data scoop, collecting personal information from members’ profiles for his own uses.
Never mind Terms of Service- if this stunt were pulled in Europe, it would be illegal. Data Protection law is crystal clear on this sort of thing. Personal Data may only be used for the purpose it was collected. Personal Data may not be passed to a third party for processing (a term which basically means doing anything with) without the explicit advance permission of the Data’s owner.
Personal Data remains the property of the person it is about and may be deleted or amended at their request (with some exceptions which don’t apply here).
These concepts are alien to US users, but are central to all EU legal systems. Data Protection is one of the most vital, though underrated, differences between the US and the EU. In one we are merely economic units. In the other we are accorded the dignity of being citizens.
Companies or individuals who ignore those principles because they seem inconvenient get no respect from me. And without respect, well, you’re no better than Rodney Dangerfield. And he’s dead.
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