Facebook to poll users on new terms of use

15 Apr 2009

Later this week, Facebook users worldwide, including some 400,000 Irish users of the social-networking site, will get a chance to have their say on the website’s terms of use, alterations to which have caused considerable controversy and a negative back-lash in the past.

The online poll has been scheduled as a result of the controversy which resulted from Facebook changing its terms of use back in February. These changes gave the site, among other things, the right to use personal information, postings, photos etc created and uploaded to the site users, even if the accounts containing this information had been deleted.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg acted quickly to diffuse the anger that flared up on Facebook itself and across the internet following the change.

“As people share more information on services like Facebook, a new relationship is created between internet companies and the people they serve,” Zuckerberg said in a blog posting back in February.

“The past week reminded us that users feel a real sense of ownership over Facebook itself, not just the information they share.”

So, as a result, Facebook will put to the vote a revised statement of rights and responsibilities, which it has published in its Facebook Town Hall section.

Users were given a 30-day consultation period, which closed on 29 March, to suggest any changes or comment on the statement. The Facebook team would then sift through these and make changes to its document as it saw fit.

The finalised document, with any user changes Facebook has decided to incorporate, will be published on the site on Thursday, after which the polls will open and users can have their say.

However, one third of Facebook users must cast a vote on the new statement, in order for the outcome of the poll to be binding.

From the looks of it, the site’s new statement will make a significant effort to establish clear limits with regard to Facebook’s use of users’ content: “First, we make it clear that users own all of their content. Second, we removed the terms ‘perpetual’ and ‘irrevocable’ from the license grant we receive from our users. Third, we make it clear that this licence ends when you delete your content or your account. And finally, we make it clear that we can only use your content in a manner consistent with your privacy and application settings,” Facebook said.

Voting begins on Thursday, 16 April and will last for one week until 23 April.

By Jennifer Yau