In my previous facebook post I said it would take 2 things to get me on Facebook (FB): trust and better terms of service (ToS, which FB now calls “Statement of rights and responsibilities”).
Since then, it has become likely that I will end up using FB as part of a KT (“knowledge trnslation,” aka making research into something that makes sense to regular non-researchy people) project for a health research group I do a bit of volunteer work with. And while I have a hunch I could possibly manage that project without actually having a personal FB account, that seems kind of awkward to me, and I don’t think I’d be able to do it as well. I got my own self into this position because the group was exploring 2.0 KT methods and of course I felt it was my duty as the librarian in the room to volunteer to shepherd such things. The upshot of this is that I’ve been appreciating this irony, and enjoying the special feeling of being someone about to go do something I’m fairly well-known for opposing. It doesn’t taste quite like crow, or my own words, but it does have a somewhat similar flavour.
However, perhaps as the spoonful of sugar helping the Facebook go down, it appears that FB may be making some of the changes I wanted (not in any way due to my request).
Right before I went on summer holidays, I noted that the privacy commissioner of Canada had issued the results of her investigation into CIPPIC’s allegations that FB infringed on users’ privacy, according to Canadian privacy law.
If this good response proves to be the case, it will certainly improve the company’s standing in my eyes – not to the level of a firm that sets out to do the right thing from the start, but at least to that of a firm that can be held accountable via legal measures when need be.
According to the CBC coverage,
“Facebook has agreed to prevent an application from accessing information until it obtains express consent for each category of personal information.
“Facebook has agreed to a timetable for the changes, and the privacy commissioner said they expect the changes to be put in effect within a year.”
Terms of Service (ToS)
The privacy commissioner’s requests address some of my ToS complaints. Looking at FB today, under “Sharing your content and information” the TOS now includes the following:
“1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account (except to the extent your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it).
2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”
Of course I’d like to know what exactly is “a reasonable period of time” and I think the Privacy Commissioner of Canada would as well. However, this is great progress, in my view, because it pretty much eliminates the risk that a picture of my kid I might upload could be used for other purposes after I delete it. I’m not really convinced that it eliminates the risk of such a picture my cousin uploads and never deletes, though. However it is a MILLION times better than what was in the TOS when I wrote about this back in February. And, whether or not this is merited, seeing this movement and responsiveness from the company makes me feel like it’s less repugnant to me.
Things in the TOS are not all ironed out yet. Here’s an area where there’s still a privacy/IP problem: “Share Links” is supposedly only to be used to link to your OWN content. I doubt this rule is being followed, and the way the TOS is written, FB assumes you are following this rule and giving FB permission to “Use such content” (that is linked to) on Facebook. <–Not cool. Still need to work on that one, guys.
However, I think the “Special Provisions Applicable to Developers/Operators of Applications and Websites” and “Special Provisions Applicable to Advertisers” have improved since I last looked at the TOS. Good on you, FB for actually tightening this up, saying you will not share user info with advertisers, and starting to limit the access application developers have to users info.
- FB may be responding reasonably well to the privacy commissioner’s requests
- FB’s Terms of Service do appear to be improving
- FB is becoming increasingly difficult for me to avoid, professionally, despite my successful resistance in my personal and activist life for the past several years
The upshot is that I may well end up there, for better or for worse. Weird, eh?