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 unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
The above text is virtually the first line of Facebook’s terms and conditions which are shown to users while registering and can be viewed by clicking on a link at the bottom of the page. While I’m sure it’s not a very well known part of Facebook’s policy it has HUGE implications for all users of the social networking service. In layman’s terms it means that any content that you upload to Facebook effectively now belongs to Facebook. But it goes further than this. The sentence “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” is the most interesting as it highlights what Facebook is able to do with the data you give them.
The words “non-exclusive” and “transferable” are critical as they imply that Facebook is able to give or sell any data to a third party company, without permission, and to as many companies as it likes. “Royalty-free” is also a keyword as it means that you won’t get a penny if Facebook or third parties use the data for commercial purposes. So any photo that you upload, whether it be of family,friends or just scenery can be used by anyone Facebook decides to sell it to. Your face could be on a billboard on the other side of the world.
For one lucky person this situation became a reality. Here’s the blog post here.
After uploading family photos to Facebook she thought that only her friends had access to them but after a shocking conversation with a friend in the Czech Republic she found out that her and her family’s face was on a shop window near her Czech friend. The sad thing is that this isn’t an isolated case and with a quick Google search you can find many more examples of this sort of thing happening.
I have known these facts for while and so I am quite confused as to why people are so angry when Facebook rolls out features such a face auto-tagging as a recent example. It seems some people are uncomfortable with Facebook being able to recognise their face and storing their image data. If, however, they had read those terms and conditions when they registered then they would have realised that Facebook already has all this data and has been using it for a while.
Personally I am fine with Facebook having my data and using it. I don’t put anything on my profile that I wouldn’t want someone to see as most people I know have Facebook. My general rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t shout something in the street then it’s not fit for Facebook and as far as picture sharing goes I am more than happy for Facebook to use my face on billboards all over globe. I’d take it as a compliment. It seems more and more that middle class Britain is obsessed with forcing seperate entities to take responsibility for different parts of their life. Recently we’ve had called for the government to help raise children (The sexualisation of children scandal, article here) and now they want Facebook to organise their privacy. People have to accept that they have choices on whether or not to partake in activities such a photo sharing and letting children watch adult programs and so it is their fault when things don’t go as they’d like.
(Edit 15/06/2011: The Owner of the blog post mentioned above has contacted me and informed me that the used picture was not taken from Facebook as originally though)