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Drafting a Facebook Bill of Rights

Posted by: Douglas MacMillan on February 18, 2009

After a revision to its terms of service contract landed Facebook in hot water with users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg this morning issued a mea culpa and pledged to come up with a new agreement that incorporates input from the site’s community. In a blog entry, he wrote:

Our terms aren’t just a document that protect our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service.

A grand vision indeed. The company is already soliciting suggestions for its new terms of service on a Facebook group page called “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities,” where more than 30,000 users have already joined and posted more than 4,000 ideas.

Some of the most prominent themes among the Facebook delegates:

Clearly notify users of changes to the agreement
“I didn’t know that Facebook was changing their terms until I heard about it while watching Fox & Friends yesterday morning,” writes user Dianne Johnston O’Neal.”Why weren’t we, the users, informed first?” Some people suggest that Facebook send an email alerting all users to such changes; others advise that the site force everyone to look over any changes and check a box before they can re-access the site.

More safeguards for photo privacy
Currently, users can “tag” photos of their friends and upload them for everyone on the site to see. Instead, users should have to “agree on pictures that are tagged of them before they are published in their profile,” writes Sigrun Sigurdardottir.

A nurturing community for artists and musicians
Facebook’s content licensing policy is still unclear to many — and that’s particularly scary to artists, who want to use the site as a platform for sharing their work without having to worry about losing their rights to it. “I’m an artist, and I use Facebook not only to keep in touch with family and friends, but to network with and meet other artists with similar interests and styles,” writes Nic Lyons. “I have pulled all of my artistic content off the site, and I may leave altogether in light of recent developments.”

Plain language about what Facebook can do with user data
A large number of commenters on the Facebook Bill of Rights group fretted about what’s being done with the data the site collects from its users, and some worry that it’s being sold to marketers. What exactly is being collected, and how it may be used for profit, should be spelled out, many say. “Assume by default I don’t want anyone to see my data,” writes Wayland Goodliffe.

What do you think should be included in Facebook’s new terms? Leave a comment on the Facebook group here, and please share your thoughts with BusinessWeek readers in the comment section below.

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Reader Comments


February 18, 2009 12:52 PM

please hurry up with whatever u people are doing. i am missing facebook

david miron

February 18, 2009 03:02 PM

Here's my cartoon take on Facebook's behavior


February 19, 2009 12:20 AM

i think u should leave breast feeding mothers alone its their right to breast is a natural is the best thing for the babies.what is wrong with it?let me no,please.i just think its their rights and no one elses bussiness.if they want to show pics to show other mothers how to breast feed it will help out.what is so wrong with that?its not like they are strippin down please let your breast feedin mothers have their rights.i think it will help other mothers out like me,someday.i saw that on the news and it made me think twice about facebook.dont get me wrong i like facebook its alot of fun ,but i have seen worse on big boobs, and bikini if they can be on here then so should brest feeding mothers.thanks for listing!


February 19, 2009 07:14 AM

Move your photos to We definitely don't own your photos and never will (and we look way cooler).

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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