Oct 25 2007

Shall we all become the sole property of FaceBook?

Published by under Privacy

Computer World, IDG and DN today writes that Microsoft has bought 1.6% of the shares in Facebook for the amount of 240 million dollars! I can just congratulate Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. But, the questions remains if it’s in the best interest of the users to get Microsoft involved in Facebook due to the enormous wealth of information that the users has provided Facebook with – for free – about themselves!

So how many of the estimated 50 million users has actually given it a thought about the information that they have submitted to Facebook and of them how many have actually read the Terms of Use and the Privacy Policy? It can’t be that many of the existing users! Either people are very well aware of what they sign or they don’t care. But they should; since when they signed up at Facebook they give the company exclusive rights to the material submitted and to be used in what ever way that they like!

”You acknowledge and agree that any questions, comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback or other information about the Site or the Service (”Submissions”), provided by you to Company are non-confidential and shall become the sole property of Company. Company shall own exclusive rights, including all intellectual property rights, and shall be entitled to the unrestricted use and dissemination of these Submissions for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without acknowledgment or compensation to you.”

Even if you as user have the possibility to delete your account, Facebook has following lines in the Privacy Policy to inform you that the user data may exist in backup copies for reasonable time:

”Removed information may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time but will not be generally available to members of Facebook.”

My question to above is how short or long is their definition of reasonable period?

The Terms of Use has a few lines about what you as uses can do or not do when it comes to harvest or collect information about other users; it doesn’t really say anything about what Facebook rights to harvest or collect information about their users; so let’s check the Privacy Policy.

Facebooks Privacy Policy clearly states that they harvest and collect information about you as user and as well tries to figure out user patterns.

”When you use Facebook, you may set up your personal profile, form relationships, send messages, perform searches and queries, form groups, set up events, add applications, and transmit information through various channels. We collect this information so that we can provide you the service and offer personalized features.”

They actually say that they in most cases inform they user about prior activities so that you can choose or not to participate; I would say that they in most cases don’t inform you as user about how they plan to use the collected information.

Following next lines should indicate red flag by most people, when talking about aggregating user information that they’ve gathered and that you as user already given Facebook exclusive rights to, but it doesn’t, sadly:

”Facebook may use information in your profile without identifying you as an individual to third parties. We do this for purposes such as aggregating how many people in a network like a band or movie and personalizing advertisements and promotions so that we can provide you Facebook. We believe this benefits you.”

I’m fully aware of the Facebook is a corporation that wants to make money and that they provide a free service; but are people aware of what kind of spin off industry and products that might come out of this huge information that they’ve gathered? Working with business development at Facebook must be one of the greatest jobs around due to the huge potential they have with all the raw data. And I doubt that Facebook will aggregate more than just what kind of bands or movies that you or a group of users likes.

So think twice when you sign up with Facebook or similar community; you might just end up signing over your entire life story to company behind the community and by that ruin your future.

So when you in the future gets questions about activities that you you’ve done in the past and thought that they where harmless at that time. Think twice before answering; what does he or she knows about you that you forgotten?

Kim Haverblad

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