Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I’m reluctantly being sucked into the Facebook vortex.

I had little interest in joining, much less being active, in Facebook. However, when you start receiving emails through Facebook from people that you actually know and would like to stay in contact with, then you have little choice.

One of the things that repelled me when I initially joined was the intrusiveness of Facebook and its numerous third-party applications. Third-party applications are applications that are not part of Facebook but are written to work with Facebook. Third-party applications offer those features that make Facebook more interesting.

An example is SuperPoke. According to Wikipedia, “poking" is Facebook’s analogy to the action of “tapping and/or softly jabbing another person using a finger, stick, or similar object to gain their attention."

SuperPoke was made by slide.com. According to slide, “SuperPoke lets you do stuff to the people you know. And you can do almost anything: try high-fiving, dropkicking, or throwing a sheep at your friends!”

All this is well and good but I’m concerned about all the personal information that is being divulged. It’s one thing to interact informally with another person in private but it’s an entirely different matter if you use a third-party channel (such as Facebook) to do that interaction.

This issue has been debated previously and will undoubtedly be discussed more in the future. However, my nephew linked me to a recent article in the online edition of New York Times that caught my attention. Entitled “Facebook’s Users Ask Who Owns Information," the article revealed that Facebook recently changed its terms of usage.
The pages, called terms of service, generally outline appropriate conduct and grant a license to companies to store users’ data. Unknown to many users, the terms frequently give broad power to Web site operators.

This month, when Facebook updated its terms, it deleted a provision that said users could remove their content at any time, at which time the license would expire. Further, it added new language that said Facebook would retain users’ content and licenses after an account was terminated.

Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, said in a blog post on Monday that the philosophy “that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant.” Despite the complaints, he did not indicate the language would be revised.

The changes in the terms of service had gone mostly unnoticed until Sunday, when the blog Consumerist cited them and interpreted them to mean that “anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later.”
It appears that young Mr. Zuckerberg has learned the art of doublespeak.

Be aware of this especially if you’re young and impulsive. You want to minimize the amount of anything adverse to return and haunt you in the future. It may, for example, hurt your chances of becoming the President in the future. ;-)

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