Facebook’s turnaround on data-retention policy

18 Feb 2009

After a controversial change to Facebook’s privacy policy on 4 February, which led to the retention of user data even after accounts had been deleted, the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has reverted to the original privacy policy.

Zuckerberg said on the official Facebook Blog: “Over the past couple of days, we received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information.

“Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.”

What he means is that tens of thousands of users were up in arms after discovering that their private data would be hoarded by Facebook, even after they had deleted their account and left the site’s services.

So messages, personal information, photo, videos, contact numbers and email addresses belonging to you would remain with Facebook for an indefinite period.

While Zuckerberg assured us that “we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want”, this still left the fact that Facebook had altered its terms of service to keep our data without our consent.

Facebook users flooded the site with complaints – a course of action that forced Zuckerberg to revert to the original terms of service only 24 hours after defending the change.

Zuckerberg’s defence for retaining data was that users wanted to keep and move shared information across networking sites and services, and to do this they had to trust these sites to keep their data.

“People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time,” said Zuckerberg.

“At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them – such as email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on – to other services, and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other.”

So the reversion to the original pre-4 February terms of services is a place holder while Facebook works on a new, improved data-retention structure that it said will rely heavily on user questions, comments and requests in the new Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Group.

So does that mean Facebook is a country and we are citizens of a democratic web service? Well, Facebook does have over 175 million users, which in terms of physical countries and their population would make it the sixth most-populated country globally.

By Marie Boran