My Response to the Facebook Fracas

Iron gate with sign that says PRIVATE

Facebook has been getting a lot of negative press lately, and for good reason: they started out as private networks of friends-chatting-with-friends, and then they slowly drew back the shower curtain so that now those same people who signed up to share photos of their drunken revelry at Harvard frat houses now have all their photos, comments, and profile information publicly acessible to everyone in the world. It happened so slowly that most people didn’t even notice that they’re now dancing naked in the middle of the street.

Basically, Facebook-the-company broke the social contract with their product users and the ones who noticed stopped trusting them.

Some people have deleted their Facebook accounts in protest, but I didn’t because Facebook has some utilty for me. Here’s what I did instead:

  1. I went into Facebook’s Account – Privacy Settings and set everything to be visible to friends only (not visible to Everyone, which is the new default).
  2. I used the Facebook scanner tool from to scan my privacy settings and make sure I didn’t forget someting. (It’s a free tool written by some guy independent of Facebook, and he also posted the tool’s source code so anyone can inspect it to make sure it’s not doing something devious.)
  3. I deleted all my Facebook profile information except for public things like my website address (
  4. I log out of Facebook whenever I’m done using it. I don’t want them following me all over the web. (Yes, I know about cookies and Flash cookies. I delete them regularly.)
  5. I decided to stop posting photos on Facebook. I now post photos on my Flickr accounts instead. (I have one Flickr account for Second Life screenshots and another for regular photographs.) Facebook reserves the right to shut down my account without recourse. I don’t want to wake up one day to find thousands of photos now gone because Facebook decided they don’t like me. (My Flickr accounts are paid premium accounts, costing about 30.00 USD per year.)
  6. I also have AdBlock Plus installed on my web browser (Firefox) so I never see any ads: no ads on Facebook, no ads anywhere (except inside videos). It’s nice. Actually, I re-enabled ads on Google search results because those ads are useful.

This way, I feel like I can still use Facebook with some confidence.

Photo Credits: Private sign, London by Олександр on Flickr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

A friendly human.

4 thoughts on “My Response to the Facebook Fracas

  1. Facebook never broke a social contract. As long as any service uses language that says they can change anything they like, well, they can change anything they like.The contract broken was one we "imagined". Just like Linden Lab’s change in TOS. Sure, they used to say all your content is 100% yours, but they also left it open to legally changing that at any time. And now they have and your stuff is not really yours anymore, you have a license to it from them. Pretty messed up imho.But you raise a great point. It is a shame when we have to boil down what is right or wrong into vague, and often obscure, language.The contract that Facebook broke was an ethical one, one that we often assume means anything. Ideally, the ethical choice should stand above the legal choice, after all, that is how Gerry Spence has one every trial he has had since 1968 – on showing that legal writings are a poor distillation of ethical agreements. And that is what Facebook broke and in the US, that is okay if it means making a buck.What do I know, I’m just a frog in OpenSim trying to reach kids with virtual field trips.. =)


  2. Facebook *did* break a social contract. A social contract isn’t a legal contract. It’s a cultural understanding or assumption.I can’t believe how much confusion is percolating regarding Linden Lab’s "ownership of your stuff" in Second Life. Linden Lab still lets content creators retain ownership of any intellectual property they create in SL. It is Linden Lab that gets the license. You have it backwards. Here’s what the latest SL Terms of Service says:7.1 You retain any and all Intellectual Property Rights in Content you submit to the Service.You retain any and all Intellectual Property Rights you already hold under applicable law in Content you upload, publish, and submit to or through the Servers, Websites, and other areas of the Service, subject to the rights, licenses, and other terms of this Agreement, including any underlying rights of other users or Linden Lab in Content that you may use or modify.In connection with Content you upload, publish, or submit to any part of the Service, you affirm, represent, and warrant that you own or have all necessary Intellectual Property Rights, licenses, consents, and permissions to use and authorize Linden Lab and users of Second Life to use the Content in the manner contemplated by the Service and these Terms of Service.Because the law may or may not recognize certain Intellectual Property Rights in any particular Content, you should consult a lawyer if you want legal advice regarding your legal rights in a specific situation. You acknowledge and agree that you are responsible for knowing, protecting, and enforcing any Intellectual Property Rights you hold, and that Linden Lab cannot do so on your behalf.For more details of the SL Terms of Service, see


  3. Ahh, you are correct. I do have it backward. But, I do not like that Linden Lab may take anything you make and profit from it and not pay you. Taking your content to improve the service is the same as claiming it as theirs and granting you a license. The final result is the same. You agree that your content can become theirs for their own use as they see fit."You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service."So yes, you do retain all rights, except that they can take it. That’s not quite retaining all rights is it.


  4. Giving Linden Lab a limited license to use my Content to debug, test, or provide support is *not* the same as letting Linden Lab "take" my Content. I retain full ownership of the intellectual property.Linden Lab needs a license to do those things, otherwise how are they supposed to repair problems or improve anything? (Remember, most of the intellectual property in SL doesn’t belong to Linden Lab.)


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