Facebook's new terms of service say that it owns--or at least shares--your uploaded content. Your photos from a company retreat could show up in a Facebook ad. Or Facebook could sublicense the rights to your company jingle in a video. Does Facebook want to use your content like this? It doesn't matter--the company says it can.
Technically, the terms say that by joining and uploading, "you grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute..." your content. Facbook also specifies it can "use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising... ."
And to defend against this troubling legalese, Facebook has taken a page from the used-car salesman manual, telling customers, Just relax. Don't worry about the contract terms and trust me. I'm almost blinded by the sheen off the shark-skin suit. Five-year-old Facebook sure grew up quickly.
Social-networking sites can be excellent ways to communicate with employees and customers. But Facebook reminds us that these sites aren't your friends, they aren't tools to solve problems, and they aren't a bunch of kids trying to make something cool. They're cold, unfeeling businesses. Businesses exist to make money. So take a close look at the terms, especially when the services are free. Sometimes, cost-free can be expensive.
[Via The Consumerist]
Zack Stern is a freelance technology writer and editor based in San Francisco.