Privacy Group: Facebook Principles Still Lacking

Facebook's recent decision to back off proposed changes in its terms of service still leaves the social-media site with a "huge loophole" in privacy protections, a privacy group said Tuesday.

Facebook's new proposed policies still allow the site to use everything users post, said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), a digital rights and privacy group.

Facebook's proposed terms of service grant the site "a nonexclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use, copy, publicly perform or display, distribute, modify, translate, and create derivative works of any content you post on or in connection with Facebook."

That section threatens user privacy, Chester said in comments sent to Facebook. Facebook's claim of a license for "items such as individual users' photos or videos is just plain creepy," he wrote.

"No user believes that Facebook has the right or license to use photos of their kids, videos of family or friends, or other such personal data," Chester added. Facebook needs to ask users for the right to use that data, he said.

Facebook asked users for input on its privacy principles after a controversy erupted in February when some privacy groups accused the site of changing its policy so that it had the right to keep archival copies of everything posted on Facebook. After a user backlash, Facebook abandoned that policy.

The wording of the proposed principles also "allows enough legal wiggle room for Facebook to ignore them completely," Chester said in comments sent to Facebook.

The principles say, "people should own their information." But Chester called for the site to remove the word, "should," thus making the statement stronger, he said.

In addition, the second proposed principle, addressing ownership and control of information, doesn't address the possibility of Facebook gathering, mining or sharing users' information, Chester said. "Users need to know how third-party developers use the data accessed or collected, including how the data is used for advertising and marketing," he said.

Facebook issued a statement in response to Chester's comments. "We're glad to have input from CDD, and we'll be reviewing it along with the thousands of other valuable comments we've received from users and other experts from around the world," the statement said.

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